Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for December 28, 2012

GwinnettPuppy12282012

This little Shepherd mix puppy is available for adoption today from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. He has a pending adoption, but approximately 50% of these fall through.

GwinnettCountyRoxboroPuppy

 

This little one will be available for adoption on January 2, 2013 from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. He’s described as a Chow mix, but I think he’s more likely a Shepherd mix, or even a Roxboro Hound. He looks just like my little old Roxy must have looked as a puppy.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Early voting is open in Georgia State House District 21 and Senate District 21 and the Cherokee County Board of Elections reports that early voting is very light.

As of Thursday afternoon, 371 people have voted in person in the special election for state House District 21 and Senate District 21, according to Cherokee County Elections Supervisor Janet Munda.

As of 3:30 p.m., 60 people had voted Thursday at the elections office, Munda said.

The elections office has received 513 ballots by mail.

The elections office will be closed New Year’s Day.

With the exception of Jan. 1, the elections office, located on East Main Street in Canton, will be open for early voting weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Jan. 4.

The special election will take place Jan. 8. No voting will take place Jan. 7.

Voters must vote in their assigned precincts on Jan. 8.

There will be no debate between Republicans Brandon Beach and Sean Jerguson in Senate District 21, due in part to the short timeframe of the election occurring during the holiday season.

Early voting is also open in Senate District 11, in the lower-left-hand corner of Georgia, to fill the vacancy created when Senator John Bulloch resigned.

Marshall Berman, Dean Burke, Brad Hughes, Mike Keown, and Eugene McNease are running as republicans on the ticket; Jeffrey Bivins is running as a libertarian.

The person chosen will represent several south Georgia counties, including Colquitt, Decatur, Early, Grady, Miller, Seminole and portions of Mitchell and Thomas Counties.

The big election day is January 8, but you can early vote from December 26-28 at the following times and locations:

Colquitt County - Courthouse Annex: 101 East Central Avenue, Room 109, Moultrie, GA 31768

Wednesday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Decatur County - Fair Grounds: 1211 Vader Rd., Bainbridge, GA 39817Wednesday – Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Early County - Elections Office: 111 Court Square, Suite D, Blakely, GA 39823

Contact them directly for hours of operation. (229) 723-3454

Grady County - Courthouse, 250 N. Broad St., Cairo, GA 39828

Wednesday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Miller County - Courthouse: 155 S. First St., Room 109, Colquitt, GA 39837

Thursday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Mitchell County - Courthouse, 11 West Broad, Camilla, GA 31730

Wednesday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Seminole County - Courthouse: 200 S. Knox Avenue, Donaldsonville, GA 39845

Wednesday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Thomas County - New Courthouse: 325 N Madison St., Thomasville, GA 31792

Wednesday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution brings us some fun facts about the immense scale of the Gwinnett County Public Schools:

  • $1 billion yearly budget
  • 20,000 teachers
  • 165,000 students
  • 1881 buses making more than 54,000 stops and covering 130,000 miles daily
  • $19 million on electricity and $11.1 million on diesel fuel in one year
  • $4.9 million per day for operation

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, a Republican, says that the immigration reforms of HB 87 are slowing down his department’s renewal of licenses.

Hospital organizations have reached an agreement on how they will ask the legislature to proceed on the bed tax Medicaid access fee.

Since 2010, every Georgia hospital has had to pay a fee based on its net patient revenue. The state collects the fee, which in turns helps draw down matching funds from the federal government. Ultimately it generates more than $400 million each year for the state Medicaid program. But the fee expires in June, unless lawmakers decide to renew it this legislative session.

After months of negotiation, Georgia’s three main hospital trade groups officially endorsed renewal of the fee.

Most hospitals had been supportive of renewal since the beginning, especially nonprofits that serve a lot of Medicaid patients, like Atlanta’s Grady Memorial and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

But some held out, complaining the tax had an unfair financial impact on those that didn’t treat as many Medicaid patients.

Windom says the problem was solved by adding a new reimbursement program that allows some private specialty hospitals to draw down state funds.

“If you’re a cancer hospital, if you do a lot of organ transplants, you get extra payments to get everybody a little closer to being made whole,” said Windom.

Governor Nathan Deal last month called on the hospital industry to reach consensus before legislative session begins in January. He’s hoping unity among hospitals will help mitigate the Republican feuding that marked the 2010 debate.

We’re now within 48 hours of a strike against East Coast ports by the International Longshoremens’ Association (Union).

Commerce could be brought to a near standstill at major ports from Boston to Houston if the strike takes place on Sunday, potentially delivering a big blow to retailers and manufacturers still struggling to find their footing in a weak economy.

“If the port shuts down, nothing moves in or out,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation. And when the workers do return, “it’s going to take time to clear out that backlog, and we don’t know how long that it’s going to take.”

The 15 ports involved in the labor dispute move more than 100 million tons of goods each year, or about 40 percent of the nation’s containerized cargo traffic. Losing them to a shutdown, even for a few days, could cost the economy billions of dollars.

After fourteen years in the State House, Rep. Barbara Massey Reece is ending her service, after losing in November to Republican Eddie Lumsden.

A change to the way franchise fees for use of city rights-of-way is will cost the City of Gainesville between $50,000 and $75,000 per year.

David Cooke has been sworn in as the new District Attorney for the Macon Judicial Circuit.

Common Cause of Georgia has announced its opposition to the use of tax funds to build a new stadium in Atlanta.

“The public can come to their meetings if they want to and listen in but don’t really have the opportunity to give input or even speak before the board,” said Common Cause Georgia Executive Director William Perry.

The Falcons and the Authority can legally negotiate the deal in private. But, Perry argues talks should be public.

“If you’re not going to hear from the public, then you ought not to use the public’s money,” said Perry.

Under the deal, about $300 million in hotel/motel tax revenue would help pay off the stadium’s billion dollar construction loan. To get the loan, the state will have to raise the Congress Center’s credit limit. Perry will ask lawmakers to say no.

In Forsyth County last year, five of eight ethics complaints were lodged against the county ethics board itself. The board was disbanded in favor of a three-lawyer tribunal.

“I got so tired of people using the ethics board as a battering ram during political season and for political vendettas,” said Commissioner Patrick Bell, who proposed the new arrangement last June.

“You have to take out the political appointments, the crony influences,” said resident Terence Sweeney, who filed seven of the eight ethics complaints last year. “Having a pool of outside lawyers who know the law is paramount because lawyers hold themselves to a higher standard.”

All of Sweeney’s ethics complaints were ultimately dismissed. He filed five against each member of the ethics board for failure to hold meetings during specified dates. That case ultimately went before a Superior Court judge, who ruled against Sweeney.

Sweeney also filed a complaint against three county commissioners whom he saw attend a meeting with Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt. The ethics board dismissed that complaint, but Sweeney filed a separate complaint with the Georgia attorney general’s office, which ruled the commissioners had violated the spirit of the state’s Open Meetings Law.

Cherokee County legislators say that the state budget and gun laws will likely get a lot of attention during the 2013 Session of the Georgia General Assembly.

District 23 Rep.-elect Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton) said she doesn’t think the addition of guards is the best idea for Cherokee County, given budget restraints and the fact that the school system already has its own police force.

“It seems like a little bit of overkill. If we had a program that trained and licensed (school staff), I think that’s something we should look at more so than an armed guard,” she said.

District 20 Rep.-elect Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock) said it would be difficult to introduce new employees to already cash-strapped schools.

“The idea of training current employees and getting them familiar with being armed can only make for a safer school environment,’ he said.

For Caldwell, the state’s budget looms as the largest task for the 2013 legislative session.

“There’s a $3 million hole. No matter what the issue is, our main primary objective is to pass a budget. Everything is going to be followed with the question ‘What’s the cost?’“ he said.

Gov. Nathan Deal has called for all state agencies outside the Department of Education to cut 3 percent from their budgets for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Caldwell plans to introduce a bill on term limits during the session. He said he expects a lot of conversation during the session about judicial reform.

New rules from the Obama administration’s EPA could effect Georgia cement plants and facilities that use boilers.

A Confederate flag and its flagpole were stolen from in front of the Berrien County, courthouse in Nashville, Georgia, about 30 miles north of Valdosta.

Middle Georgia College hopes to become a hothouse for aerial drone technology, helping usher SkyNet into sentience.

Most people would call the device a drone. Professionals prefer to call it an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or UAV. But at Middle Georgia College’s aviation campus, most refer to this particular UAV as PTERA — the first drone of its type that was tested in the United States. Students and faculty tested PTERA under the direction of NASA.

“That hasn’t been done to our knowledge,” said Chad Dennis, a program coordinator with the Georgia Centers of Innovation for Aerospace, with an office on Middle Georgia College’s Eastman campus.

UAVs are a rarity on college campuses, but they are becoming more common at Middle Georgia College and, if Dennis has his way, they will soon play a bigger academic role. Dennis has spent the past year developing a UAV degree program — specifically an Unmanned Aerial Certification program. If approved by the Board of Regents, the new Middle Georgia State College would be one of few U.S. institutions that offer a UAV program. Middle Georgia State College will form in January with the consolidation of Middle Georgia College and Macon State College.

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