Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for January 4, 2012

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29326 is a young female German Shepherd mix who is available for adoption or foster from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. Described as a big lovable goofball who loves to play.

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29221 is an older adult Lab mix who is very sweet and friendly to everyone he meets, and still has some spunk.

Dixie Dog Rescue is usually very active in helping dogs in the Gwinnett County Shelter, but they’re having to cut back because of major expenses incurred in the veterinary care of two recent rescues. They’re the folks who helped save Dolly, our coonhound girl, and we support them. I hope you’ll consider making an online donation today. Even $5 saved from forgoing that super-frappalatte can help save a life.

Columbus area runners and walkers can help support a local pet rescue by participating in the Furry 5K to benefit PAWS Humane. The race is at Cooper Creek Park in Columbus on Feb. 16 and dogs are welcome. They won’t get a t-shirt unless they register, however.

Register at PAWS Humane, Big Dog Running Company or online at estartline.com. Early registration is $25 per person and includes a T-shirt. Day-of-Race registration is $30 and must be completed by 8:30 a.m.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Today’s most important news is the opening of Girl Scout Cookie season.

The annual cookie sale begins today with Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs, Trefoils, Do-Si-Dos and Savannah Smiles, a lemon wedge cookie dusted with powdered sugar that is the newest offering.

“If you know a Girl Scout, you can order them through them,” said Nekeidra Taylor, corporate communications manager for the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta Inc.

But if you don’t know a Girl Scout, you will have to wait until booth sales begin on Feb. 11, according to Taylor.

That’s also the day when cookies are delivered to those who preorder. Cookies will cost $3.50 per box. This year the boxes have received a makeover for the first time in 10 years. You can see the new boxes at
www.showmethecookies.com.

If you want to find cookie sales close to you, the organization has new apps for Android phones and iPhones.

Feeling badly and seeking solace in a sleeve of Thin Mints? There’s an app for that!

Democratic Congressman Sanford Bishop says that Congress should be spanked and sent to bed without dinner punished for their handling of the self-created fiscal crisis.

“Let me clarify…I believe that most of the federal employees out there, our FBI agents, our USDA workers, our uniformed personnel all deserve to have their cost-of-living increases unfrozen because they’ve been working hard to keep the government going,” Bishop said. “They’re being penalized unfairly.”

“I also think, however, that we ought to be punished for not discharging our duties,” he said. “We should cut members of Congress out of that order and keep the wage increases for federal employees.”

I believe that any politician who uses the phrase “kick the can down the road” or any derivative should be punished. Consider it part of the war on intellectual laziness.

Metro Atlanta will become the ninth largest metropolitan area in the country with nearly 5.5 million residents, while Georgia will be the eighth most-populous state with more than 10 million.

Albany Municipal Court Judge Willie Weaver was arrested for felony aggravated assault against his wife.

The GBI swore out a warrant for Weaver, 53, after agents investigated a report on a May 22 assault taken by the Albany Police Department.

According to the report, the attack did not take place at the Weavers’ home. Weaver was listed as the “primary aggressor.” Vester Weaver received “superficial injuries” as a result of the attack, the report added.

The report indicated that the violence took place in front of children, there was alcohol involved and there had been between one and five previous incidents.

The original report lists the charge as battery, but after the investigation GBI agents raised the level to aggravated assault, a felony. Typically this is because a weapon or object was used to hit the victim.

T-SPLOST collections have begun in the three middle Georgia regions that passed the transportation tax last year. This comprises forty-six counties in the Heart of Georgia, Savannah River, and River Valley regions.

The defeat of T-SPLOST in Metro Atlanta will not stop new transit.

Governor Nathan Deal will not name a panel to determine whether Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill should be suspended as it appears not to be authorized because Hill was indicted when he was a private citizen rather than an elected official.

Deal has concluded that the law outlining the procedures for the suspension of public officials under indictment applies only to officials indicted while holding their elected office.

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 45-5-6, the governor must appoint a three-member panel to investigate the indictment of a public official. The law defines “public official” as “any elected county officer.” Victor Hill was indicted on Feb. 29, 2012, at which time he was a private citizen and not an elected county officer. Therefore, state law prohibits the appointment of a suspension panel at this time.

Gov. Deal will deliver the State of the State address on January 17th. Could be a tough one.

Though Deal has not issued estimates for fiscal year 2014, revenues could be $700 million or more below what would be necessary to continue the 2013 spending plan for state government.

On the same day as the State of the State, the Georgia Board of Education will hold a hearing on whether Gov. Deal should suspend members of the DeKalb County Board of Education at 1 PM.

The hearing is required under a new law that allows for suspension of boards in districts that are on accreditation probation. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed DeKalb on probation last month, alleging mismanagement and other issues.

Brandon Beach’s campaign for State Senate District 21 will hold a Rally and Reception with special guest former Atlanta Braves Pitcher John Smoltz tonight from 5 to 7 PM at Town Lake Hills East Clubhouse, 1007 Town Lake Hills East in Woodstock, GA. Don’t hold me to this, but the invitation doesn’t have a price tag, so it may be a freebie.

The latest numbers for the SD 21 and HD 21 Special Elections indicate that more than 700 early votes have been cast in Cherokee County and 500 in Fulton. Today is the last day of early voting for all the January 8 Special Elections.

In the Special Election for Senate District 30, Librarian Libertarian James Camp appears to have adopted the Georgia Democratic Party’s talking point about blocking a GOP supermajority in the state’s senior chamber.

Camp is promoting his candidacy as the last barrier to a Republican super majority in the state Senate. He said this District 30 runoff could be the contest that gives the GOP a two-thirds majority.

“When you have a super majority, it takes away the will of the people and replaces it with the will of the party establishment,” he said. “With a super majority, Republicans can push through anything they want and overcome any objections to their party agenda.”

Dugan, a political newcomer, used a “new faces and ideas” platform and grassroots campaigning to defeat Hembree, an 18-year experienced political office holder, in the Dec. 4 runoff.

“If voters want something other than business as usual, I’m offering something different,” Dugan said during his November campaign. “We need to do better in government, to get it back to where it should be, so peoples’ voices are represented.”

If elected, Dugan has pledged to hold regular town hall meetings, work for term limits and put a cap on lobbyist gifts.

The Albany Herald is now reporting what we told you two weeks ago — that Democrat Lisa Collins dropped out of the Special Election for Senate District 11.

State Rep. Dusty Hightower pre-filed legislation to make the “show your papers to get state government goodies” provision of the HB 87 immigration reform act require only one-time submission of papers for United States citizens. Non-citizens will continue to submit them every time they file.

In a move to improve public access, the Georgia State Archive may be moved from the Secretary of State’s Office to the University System.

University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby Wednesday announced Clayton State University President Tim Hynes will serve as the panel’s chairman. The group is expected to meet this month.

The transfer is part of a long-term agreement reached by Gov. Nathan Deal and Secretary of State Brian Kemp to keep the research and records facilities open.

The transfer to the university system still requires approval by the General Assembly.

A new state law took effect this week that will allow driving permits for some people convicted of DUI.

Under the new law, drivers convicted of a second DUI in five years will be eligible to receive limited-use permits sooner, pending the completion of state requirements.

These limited permits can be issued by judges during the first 120 days of a first-time offender’s license suspension, Cherokee County State Court Judge Alan Jordan said.

Any person whose license has been suspended for a second DUI violation within five years will be able to apply for a limited-use permit after 120 days instead of the 12-month waiting period previously outlined in the law.

As a result of Senate Bill 236, signed by Gov. Nathan Deal in April 2012, first-time DUI offenders with limited driving permits have permission to drive in a few additional circumstances. These permits can now be used for attending court, reporting to a probation office, performing community service or to provide limited transportation to immediate family members without driver’s licenses.

Bomb threats were called in against the Cobb County and Cherokee County courthouses. No actual bombs were found, but foreclosure sales that take place on the courthouse steps were delayed.

Local elected officials in Douglas County will see some new faces on the other side of the table when they meet with the county legislative delegation to discuss priorities for the 2013 Session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Leaders from the city of Douglasville, the Douglas County School System and the Douglas County Board of Commissioners will get a chance to bend the ears of the area’s delegation in the General Assembly this morning.

The aim is to make sure important local issues are on the minds of those who will be under the gold dome later this month.

Each entity will have about an hour to tell the senators and representatives what they hope to see happen during the current session.

Newly elected District 67 Rep. Michah Gravley (R-Dallas) will host the meeting, with newly elected District 66 Rep. Kimberly Alexander (D-Hiram), District 68 Rep. Dusty Hightower (R-Whitesburg), District 64 Rep. Roger Bruce and Donzella James of Senate District 35 all expected to have seats at the table.

Gravley said being new to his position, he is looking forward to the meetings and hearing from so many people this settings.

“I am looking forward to the meetings and being able to get a grasp on what is on the top of the minds of the local elected officials,” Gravley said. “This format is perfect for that and I plan to take a ton of notes and get an agenda and takeaways that I can use as I head into the session.”

Their counterparts in Cherokee County also have a list of New Year’s Resolutions.

Also stating an agenda is Georgia Equality, which lobbies for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Tharon Johnson, who managed Mayor Kasim Reed’s election and the southern region for President Obama’s reelection, is joining Atlanta legal and lobbying powerhouse McKenna Long.

Athens will see 1000 new bedrooms built in the core of the city, while an Athens-Clarke County Commissioner raises the question of how that will effect the rest of the area.

Consolidation of Macon and Bibb County governments will continue, with establishment of a combined pension system a major challenge.

Maybe they forgot which event they were at: the same Carrollton company that was in charge of the Peach Drop at Underground Atlanta also handled the Macy’s Great Tree event which ended in a broken crane dropping the tree through the store roof.

Speaking of the Peach Drop, the City of Atlanta will continue tilting at windmills take another shot at doing something with Underground Atlanta.

“When we direct tourists to Underground and Five Points, we want to make sure it represents the best of Atlanta, which it doesn’t right now,” said Duriya Farooqui, the city’s chief operating officer. “This is the right time for us to look at a solution for Underground because of the key major investments that are being planned.”

Developer Dan O’Leary, whose company has run the attraction under contract since the late 1990s, is long on dreams for Underground’s revival but, for now, short on details. He acknowledges it’s a sore spot for the city’s civic pride, though, and said his team needs time to search for a way to upend Underground.

“The best way to describe a successful Underground Atlanta, to me, is for it to be something that the majority of people would be proud of. And I know right now that they are not proud of Underground,” said O’Leary. “If it needs to be better, it needs a big idea. It’s got to be a big idea. And we know it. But big ideas take a long time to happen.”

Any transformational proposal would likely require big money, and enticing outside investors could require the renegotiation of O’Leary’s 88-year lease on the city-owned property.

Wait, tourists still think Underground is something they want to see? And does this mean that O’Leary’s proposal for an electronic lottery casino in Gwinnett County was just a stalking horse for bringing gaming to Underground.

Sworn in:

Elected officials taking or retaining office in Haralson County were sworn in yesterday.

Dougherty County Board of Education members.

Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown was elected Chairman by fellow Commissioners.

Sworn out:

Sandy Springs Assistant Solicitor Jeannine Malone, who held the job for one month before resigning because her husband pled guilty to a federal charge of conspiring to distribute a controlled dangerous substance.

Thomas William Malone Jr. pleaded guilty in September to conspiring to distribute a controlled dangerous substance. Apparently city officials were unaware of those charges when his wife, Jeannine Malone, was sworn in Dec. 3.

They were made aware of the relationship by Lance Dyer, the father of the Bremen teenager who shot himself last March after ingesting spice, or synthetic marijuana, manufactured by NutraGenomics, a company co-owned by Thomas Malone and Drew Green, both of Roswell. Each faces up to 20 years in prison.

Sandy Springs city attorney Wendell Willard confirmed that Malone was asked to resign but declined further comment.

“I resigned my professional relationship with the city of Sandy Springs so that the city would not be part of any discussion about my husband’s legal issue,” she said in a statement.

Awesome:

A humpback whale was spotted off Little Saint Simons Island by Georgia biologists.

Clay George, a DNR biologist specializing in marine mammals, said the young, endangered whale was swimming in less than 10 feet of water and was likely feeding on schools of small fish.

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