Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for December 21, 2012

WaltonThomasThomas is a three-year old fifty-pound neutered male German Shepherd mix who is available for adoption from the Walton County Animal Shelter. Here’s what his friends say about him:

This gentle boy comes up to the front of his pen with tail wagging and affectionately raises his paw to get some lovin’.

He sits on command and has a nice calm demeanor.

It was raining and the police were on the gun range nearby during his photoshoot, so he looks a little tense in his pictures.  Don’t hold it against him… blame the photographer!

WaltonThomas2

 

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

State Rep. Sean Jerguson, running for the Senate District 21 seat vacated by Chip Rogers, is under attack for how he defines “Fiscal Conservatism,” a key plank in his election platform. Linda Flory, with the Cherokee Coalition for Responsible Growth, says Jerguson’s understanding of the term apparently includes allegations of defaulting on a loan to a business part-owned by Jerguson, and accepting $755,000 in government cheese federal stimulus funds.

Bank of the Ozarks (which took over the loan from a failed North Georgia bank) says Jerguson and his associates from Sapphire Pointe, LLC, owe more than $640,000 on a loan for a mobile home park in Polk County. In court papersJerguson’s attorneys admit the group has not paid back the whole loan but dispute the amount.

In an interview Jerguson said Sapphire Pointe is doing fine as a business and had made every loan payment. Bank of the Ozarks declined to renew the loan and abruptly sued for the balance in September, Jerguson said. He said the parties are negotiating a settlement and he believes they are close to a deal.

“It’s a business dispute,” Jerguson said. “The property hasn’t been foreclosed on. We’re in a settlement process with them on the dispute.”

Flory also points out that Jerguson’s gun shop, Hi Caliber, got a federal Small Business Administration loan in 2010 that Pro Publica identifies as funded by the 2009 stimulus — even though Jerguson is a critic of said stimulus. Jerguson spokesman Robert Trim noted that SBA loan programs far predate the stimulus.

The campaign of Jerguson’s opponent Brandon Beach says that the new early voting office in Alpharetta may make a difference in the election results.

“We had to fight to get them to move the Fulton early voting place from the Fulton County North Annex in Sandy Springs to one in Alpharetta,” [Beach Campaign Manager Ron] Wallace said.

It finally dawned on the Secretary of State’s Office that the lone voting site for Fulton voters ought to be in the same precinct as the seat that is being contested.

The other early balloting site is at City Hall in Canton.

Early voting in Alpharetta will be Dec. 17-21, Dec. 27-28 and Jan. 2-4, due to the fact that voting will not take place on weekends or on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

“This is the first time an early election location has been put north of the Chattahoochee,” Wallace said.

Wallace noted that special elections are notorious for their low turn-outs among voters. This one is rather unique, however.

The Jan. 8 election day is just two days after the Super Bowl and days after Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Walter Jones writes in Southern Political Report that Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) is actively seeking the Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, on which she already serves.

In a two-page letter to the leadership obtained by Morris News Service she lists her loyalty, competency and social skills. She also notes that Republicans could benefit by putting more women in leadership roles.

“Elected officials can speak all they want about equality and being ‘for’ women’s issues, but when one has the power to elevate a woman thru the glass ceiling, it is much more resonate and remarkable on their own personal record to have that courage to make history,” she wrote.

The rules chairman has been Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, who is widely expected to be replaced.

Observers say the choice is between her and Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, the current chairman of the Transportation Committee. He has been in the Senate one term longer than Unterman, who has more legislative seniority when her tenure in the House is counted.

Mullis didn’t return calls seeking a comment.

Also, add media relations to the list of differences between the two contenders.

Tea Party leader Debbie Dooley wrote in an email,

“I think Renee would be excellent.

Renee would help restore confidence in the process and the State Senate.

Many activists see the State Senate as a good ole boy network. Having Senator Unterman as Rules Chair would help squash that sentiment.

Over 26 years of near-continuous service in elected office, Unterman has represented large swaths of Gwinnett County, which contributed nearly 300,000 votes (1 of 13 votes cast) in the 2012 General Election and 1 of every fourteen votes in the 2012 Republican Primary. Also, in the 2012 General Election, the Presidential vote for Mitt Romney was within a point of the statewide vote breakdown; as Gwinnett goes, so goes Georgia.

Senator Unterman also announced she will pre-file legislation to create an Alzheimer’s and Dementia Task Force.

As the state’s Alzheimer’s population is expected to double by 2025, Georgia must be prepared with an active plan to share the burden of taking care of its citizens who are likely to require government assistance in the final stages of their lives due to the effects of dementia,” said Sen. Unterman. “I challenge the Departments of Human Services and Aging, the Department of Public Health, the Executive branch and General Assembly to actively participate in developing this plan by approving this legislation.”

Georgia is one of only 16 states in the nation that has not developed a statewide Alzheimer’s response plan. The creation of this task force would set the groundwork for the infrastructure necessary to build the programs capable of serving individuals afflicted by this disease. In addition, individuals appointed to serve on the task force will be responsible for examining the state’s existing infrastructure and determining the need for additional legislation.

In Senate District 11, in the lower left-hand corner of Georgia, Democratic candidate Lisa Collins withdrew her name from the ballot, leaving five Republican candidates and a Librarian Libertarian.

In Fulton County Superior Court, Judge Doris Downs will announce by the end of next week her decision whether or not to enjoin enforcement of the Fetal Pain bill passed by the General Assembly this year, which bans most elective abortions performed before the 20-week mark.

The challenge was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three obstetricians. ACLU attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas argued the judge should block the law because otherwise Georgia women will suffer irreparable harm.

“Many of them seek abortions because they’re in the process of miscarrying, there are a number of health conditions that are caused by pregnancy or made by worse by pregnancy, and some have only just received the devastating diagnosis that the fetus is suffering from a severe or potentially lethal anomaly.”

But state attorneys argued preventing the law from moving forward as scheduled will harm the state by going against the will of the Georgia legislature.

Another Fulton Superior Court Judge, Wendy Shoob, ruled that Atlanta Public Schools cannot withhold funds from charter schools in a dispute over whether the charters must pay into the Atlanta Teachers’ pension fund.

State Representative-elect Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw) has pre-filed four bills that “that would sweep away any restrictions on carrying firearms in Georgia — including on college campuses and in churches.” The pre-filed bills are House Bills 26 through 29.

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) has pre-filed legislation to slow the incorporation of new cities. She told the Atlanta Business Chronicle:

“I support people being able to decide how they want to be governed, but I think they should have a harder road … because the financial impact is not just on them but on the rest of us.”

Pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing is likely to be discussed again in the 2013 Session of the Georgia General Assembly.

A proposed horseracing track in the Atlanta area with live racing 40 days a year and simulcast facilities on other days could generate $534 million in its first year of operations, a supporter said Thursday.

Jack Damico of Cumming, Ga., an accountant and member of the Georgia Horseracing Coalition, told a Georgia Senate study committee investors would line up to finance a project with such a strong potential return.

He said his projections were based on a track that would feature racing on 20 days in the spring and 20 days in the fall. The numbers also assume the track would not include a casino.

Opponents of legalizing pari-mutuel betting in Georgia have cited studies that argue horse racing is declining across the country and that tracks can’t make money without casino operations.

But the proposal faces an uphill battle. Religious organizations are lining up to oppose the expansion of gambling in Georgia on moral grounds.

“Our concern is for the citizens who will be attracted to the racetrack who can least afford it,” Ray Newman of the 1.4-million member Georgia Baptist Convention told the study committee. “It will turn the state into a predator.”

Gov. Nathan Deal also has spoken out in opposition to any legislation that would expand legalized gambling in Georgia.

Dennis O’Hayer of WABE has an extended interview with horse-racing proponent State Rep. Harry Geisinger, a Republican.

Savannah Morning News has an interactive feature about gun control laws and gun statistics. The SMN also urges the Chatham County Commission to vote against their own pay raise.

It is being reported that Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has scheduled the Special Election for House District 71, recently vacated, for February 5, 2013, although no Writ of Election appears on the website for Governor Nathan Deal. Premature election?

Officials say that qualifying for the special election shall be held in the Elections Division of the Office of Secretary of State in Atlanta. It will begin on January 7th, 2013 starting at 9:00 a.m. and ending at 5:00 p.m.; Tuesday, January 8th, 2013 beginning at 8:00 a.m. and ending at 5:00 p.m.; and Wednesday, January 9th, 2013 beginning at 8:00 a.m. and ending at 12 o’clock noon. The qualifying fee is $400.

All persons who are not registered to vote and who desire to vote in the special election must register to vote before the close of business on Monday, January 7th, 2012.

Wells Fargo has sued Fulton Science Academy over a default on $19 million worth of bonds.

The Chatham County E-SPLOST sales tax for education has not delivered on the promises made by proponents of its passage.

“The reason ESPLOST II passed is because people in those communities felt they were going to get new schools. Now, we’re saying Spencer and Port Wentworth are not going to get new schools,” [School Board Member Ruby] Jones said. “It looks like a bait-and-switch.”

She was right.

“If we don’t get the schools that we were pretty much promised, this ESPLOST will be the last,” said Port Wentworth Mayor Glenn “Pig” Jones.

In other news, Georgia has at least one Mayor who answers to “Pig.”

Forsyth County’s Board of Ethics has scheduled a meeting January 2, 2013 to begin reviewing a complaint filed against an Assistant District Attorney.

Bill Floyd is resigning effective January 7th as Mayor of Decatur to join Pendleton Consulting Group, which was co-founded by then-State Senator Chip Pearson.

A private probation company will no longer serve Richmond and Columbia County Superior Courts.

“Sentinel provided a new contract for services to the Court for consideration and asked to receive signature as soon as possible. Because the Court has not yet signed the new contract, and because of circumstances arising from the barrage of lawsuits filed by Jack Long, Sentinel was left with no choice but to suspend its operations in the Superior Courts of Richmond and Columbia County as of December 19, 2012,” the statement said.

Sentinel provided probation services for the Superior Court for people convicted of misdemeanor charges for the past 12 years.

There really is a new Sheriff in town as Richard Roundtree was sworn in as Richmond County Sheriff. Also newly-sworn in is Bibb County Sheriff David Davis.

GOP Congressman Austin Scott (Tifton) adds the title of Chairman as he takes over leadership of the House subcommittee for Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture.

Savannah-based Gulfstream Aerospace has delivered its first G650 aircraft.

The highly anticipated business jet, whose maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.925 makes it the fastest certified civilian aircraft in production, was delivered to a U.S. customer.

Jay L. Johnson, chairman and CEO of Gulfstream’s parent corporation General Dynamics, said the G650 sets a new world standard for business-jet performance, range, speed and comfort.

The Ocean Terminal owned by Georgia Ports Authority plays a major role in the United States military’s capacity for deploying overseas.

Of the more than 300 seaports in the United States, the Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation have designated 15, including Savannah’s, as “strategic ports.”

In the event of a large-scale military deployment, the DOD would transport more than 95 percent of all equipment and supplies needed for military operations by sea, almost all of them through these ports.

Check out the Berry College “Bald Eagle Cam,” which will make you even more proud to be an American and a Georgian.

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