Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for February 28, 2013

Election Alertearly voting has begun in the March 19 elections for Forest Park Mayor and City Council.

There are four candidates for mayor and two for Ward 1 council seat. Mayor Pro Tem Sparkle Adams is seeking the mayor’s job as are Dabouze Antoine, an employee with the Clayton County school system; government worker John Finch and David Lockhart, a local attorney.

Homemaker Kimberly James and local businessman Thomas “Tommy” Smith are vying for the council seat.

Advance voting will be available at Forest Park City Hall, 745 Forest Parkway, began Monday and runs through March 15. Voting is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays. A runoff election will be April 16, if needed.

Georgia General Assembly

Today is the Twenty-Sixth Legislative Day of the 2013 Session of the Georgia General Assembly. Both the Senate and the House will convene at 10 AM.

Senate Rules Calendar

Senate Bill 10 by Senator Buddy Carter - relating to registered professional nurses, so as to provide for continuing competency requirements as a requirement for license renewal; to provide for inactive licenses

Senate Bill 128 by Senator Fran Millar and Senator Renee Unterman - relating to professional counselors, social workers, and marriage and family therapists, so as to revise definitions relating to marriage and family therapy

Senate Bill 140 by Senator Jack Murphy and others - relating to property insurance, contract requirements, rules and regulations, and exemptions, so as to include contracts, agreements, and instruments for the repair of certain wear and tear of a motor vehicle to include rips, burns, tears, holes, and punctures to interior fabric or carpet, cosmetic repair to aluminum or painted wheels, and exterior reconditioning of foggy or yellowed headlights within the definition of property insurance in a manner similar to vehicle service agreements or extended warranty agreements

Senate Bill 142 by Senator Fran Millar - relating to salary, retirement, death, and disability benefits under the Georgia Judicial Retirement System, so as to provide that the board of trustees shall have the authority to determine the time and circumstances of paying benefits to the extent necessary to preserve the retirement system’s status as a qualified plan under federal law; to provide that a prohibition against a person receiving a pension from accepting public employment shall apply to persons who become members on or after July 1, 2014, without regard to age; to require notice to the board of trustees of such employment; to provide for penalties

Senate Meeting Calendar

8:00 AM EDUCATION & YOUTH School choice & policy Sub comm 307 CLOB
8:30 AM EDUCATION & YOUTH Sub Com-Acad. Achievment 307 CLOB
12:00 PM RULES Upon Adjournment 450 CAP
12:15 PM GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT -Upon Adj. of RULES MEZZ 1
1:00 PM EDUCATION & YOUTH 307 CLOB
1:00 PM INSURANCE & LABOR 450 CAP
1:00 PM PUBLIC SAFETY 125 CAP
2:00 PM FINANCE-CANCELLED MEZZ 1
2:00 PM NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT 450 CAP
3:00 PM BANKING & FINANCIAL INST-CANCELLED 310 CLOB
4:00 PM VETERANS, MILITARY & HOMELAND SECURITY MEZZ 1

 

House Rules Calendar

HB 155 by Rep. David Knight and others - elating to game and fish, so as to revise provisions concerning the licensing and operation of shooting preserves; to revise the definition of “pen raised game birds”; to change licensing requirements for shooting preserves; to create a lifetime shooting preserve license

HB 324 by Rep. Matt Dollar and others - relating to requirements, procedures, and conditions for verification of lawful presence within the United States, so as to provide exemptions for the board of commissioners of the Georgia Student Finance Commission and the board of directors of the Georgia Student Finance Authority

HR 274 by Rep. Richard Smith and others - requesting that the Department of the Army (DA) carefully consider the socioeconomic impact the Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) for Army 2020 Force Restructuring will have on Fort Benning, Georgia, and the surrounding region

HR 281 by Rep. Jay Roberts and others - providing that Tift County be so named in honor of the late Henry Harding Tift

HB 156 by Rep. Jay Neal and others - relating to computer or electronic pornography and child exploitation prevention, so as to clarify certain acts amounting to unlawfully seducing, soliciting, luring, or enticing a child through use of a computer online service, Internet service, or similar service, to provide for related matters; to provide for an effective date and applicability

HB 242 by Rep. Wendell Willard and others - relating to courts, so as to substantially revise, supersede, and modernize provisions relating to juvenile proceedings and enact comprehensive juvenile justice reforms recommended by the Governor’s Special Council on Justice Reform in Georgia; to provide for the Office of the Child Advocate for the Protection of Children; to amend Code Section 42-5-52 of the O.C.G.A., relating to classification and separation of inmates generally; to amend Chapter 4A of Title 49 of the O.C.G.A., relating to the Department of Juvenile Justice; to amend the O.C.G.A., so as to conform provisions to the new Chapter 11 of Title 15 and correct cross-references

HB 244 by Rep. Randy Nix and others - relating to elementary and secondary education, so as to revise certain provisions relating to annual performance evaluations; to provide for the development of evaluation systems for teachers of record, assistant principals, and principals; to provide for confidentiality and exceptions; to provide for the reporting of certain evaluation results to the Professional Standards Commission; to revise provisions relating to annual contracts; to revise provisions for purposes of conformity

HB 283 by Rep. Brooks Coleman and others - relating to education, so as to update and revise terminology; to delete obsolete, unused, and unnecessary provisions; to revise funding weights; to revise provisions for earning funding for certain personnel; to revise provisions relating to submission of available positions; to provide for a grant program for technology capital; to revise provisions relating to home study programs; to clarify and revise certain provisions regarding charter schools, charter petitions, and charter funding; to authorize the Office of Student Achievement to establish a nonprofit corporation; to provide for related matters

HB 293 by Rep. Carl Rogers and others - relating to tuition equalization grants at private colleges and universities, so as to revise a definition; to provide that a proprietary institution offering a course of study in nursing which is otherwise qualified as a qualified proprietary institution of higher education except for having not been in existence in this state for a period of at least ten years on January 1, 2011, that is a wholly owned subsidiary of a corporation that operates a proprietary institution of higher education in this state, either directly or through a wholly owned subsidiary corporation, and which is a qualified proprietary institution of higher education shall be considered a qualified proprietary institution of higher education

HB 327 by Rep. Brooks Coleman and others - elating to elementary and secondary education, so as to enact the “Flexibility and Accountability Act for Student Achievement”; to provide for legislative intent; to categorize each school system as a Category 1, Category 2, or Category 3 school system; to establish requirements; to provide for specified flexibility and accountability for Category 1 school systems; to provide for full flexibility for Category 2 school systems; to provide for Category 3 school systems as charter systems; to provide for statutory construction; to provide for grants; to provide for mediation; to provide for rules and regulations; to revise provisions relating to waivers to improve student performance; to provide for related matters`

House Meeting Calendar

TBD Floor Session (LD26) HOUSE CHAMBER (10:00AM)
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT 606 CLOB
8:30 AM – 10:00 AM Banks and Banking Subcommittee 133 CAP
9:00 AM – 10:00 AM RULES 341 CAP
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM ECONOMIC DEVLEOPMENT & TOURISM 506 CLOB
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Tax Reform Subcommittee of Ways & Means 133 CAP
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM DEFENSE & VETERANS AFFAIRS 415 CLOB
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM BANKS & BANKING 406 CLOB
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM TRANSPORTATION 506 CLOB
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM JUDICIARY CIVIL 132 CAP
2:00 PM – 2:30 PM Driver Safety Subcommittee of Motor Vehicles 606 CLOB
2:30 PM – 3:00 PM Tags & Title Subcommittee of Motor Vehicles 606 CLOB
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM REGULATED INDUSTRIES 415 CLOB
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM WAYS & MEANS 606 CLOB
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM INTRAGOVERNMENTAL COORDINATION 403 CAP
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM Atwood Subcommittee of Juvenile Justice 406 CLOB
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 506 CLOB

House Bill 125 by Rep. Dustin Hightower makes changes to the requirements that applicants for state benefits prove their citizenship, including lessening the proof required for renewals where the applicant has previously proven their immigration status. This addresses the backlog in licensing in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, which is caused in part by the requirement for personnel to actually handle papers, rather than processing licenses through the computerized system.

#DeKalbBOE and #DeKalbCEO

The nominating panel set up by Governor Nathan Deal is accepting applications for appointment to the DeKalb County Board of Education to fill the slots being vacated by the 6 members whose suspension was recommended by the Georgia State Board of Education.

Anyone yearning to be a school board member in one of the largest, and most troubled, school districts in Georgia, can apply for the job now — no election required.

A panel assembled by Gov. Nathan Deal is accepting applications to fill the seats of six suspended DeKalb County school board members. The positions pay $18,000 a year.

Applicants should email their identification (name, contact information and address), the post desired (must reside within the geographic boundaries), a resume or brief biography and a statement of interest to [email protected]

Maureen Downey with the AJC confirmed with the Governor’s Office that potential appointees must live in the district they seek to represent.

“Yes, the law says that replacement board members must be otherwise qualified to serve, which means, in part, that they must live in the district.”

WSB reports that DeKalb Interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond is seeking to negotiate a settlement of the School Board’s lawsuits against the state with Governor Nathan Deal.

“Everyone involved states, without any reservation, that they would prefer some type of negotiated compromise,” Thurmond said.

That is critical to get beyond the district’s legal issues and concentrate on regaining full accreditation, he said.

He also talked about what he believed are the root causes of the district’s decade of academic decline and why he believes he was “destined” to become superintendent at this time.

A deal acceptable to Deal would probably have to include the resignations of at least some of the suspended members, and that appears to be part of the negotiations.

Earlier this week, Gov. Nathan Deal announced he wants to suspend Sarah Wood, Jay Cunningham, Nancy Jester, Eugene Walker, Pamela Speaks and Donna Edler.

A state senator from DeKalb County told Channel 2′s Erica Byfield the deal may involve the board members resigning.

“I have said all along I would like to see this board members resign, let the public make the decision, let the voters decide who should go back on this board,” said Emanuel Jones.

Channel 2 Action News has confirmed the governor and Interim DeKalb County Superintendent Michael Thurmond have met several times this week to discuss the fate of the board.

“It would be my hope that whatever discussion is taking place that governor would be open to some resignation from the board members rather than suspending these board members,” Jones told Byfield.

If the board members resign the governor would be forced to call for an immediate election in DeKalb County to fill the six vacant seats.

Jones told Byfield he knows talks about a number of issues, including the possible resignation of the board members, are under way but he’s not sure how quickly a deal could be worked out.

Nancy Jester is widely considered to be the bright spot on the DeKalb Board of Education. Her apparent backtracking on a prior statement regarding her willingness to step down shows the problem for someone seeking to do the right thing while surrounded by those determined to do wrong.

School board member Nancy Jester, who says she was a budget whistleblower for SACS, had initially indicated that she would step down if the governor removed her. She now says she has second thoughts.

“I am certainly willing to step down. My fear is that if one person does it but other — you know, others don’t, then you just leave your constituents without their voice that they elected you to. So I’m the voice that’s never — I’ve never voted to hire an attorney to take any litigation steps because that’s just against one of my principles for kids and taxpayers,” Jester said.

Jester is the only member who deserves consideration for a return to the board by Governor Deal or DeKalb County voters.

DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis is taking the fight to the District Attorney, accusing the DA of misconduct.

The motion, filed jointly with Ellis’ former campaign manager, Kevin Ross, accused the DA’s office of violating a court order in filings before the Georgia Court of Appeals when it allowed court records that had previously been placed under seal to be made public.

“The clear and systematic violations by the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office of this court’s sealing order demonstrated a reckless disregard for a lawful order of this court, not to mention the privacy interests of (Ellis and Ross),” the motion said.

During a recent court hearing, however, James said he may seek sanctions against Ellis’ and Ross’ attorneys on behalf of members of a special-purpose grand jury that has been investigating possible corruption in DeKalb. James accused lawyers for Ellis and Ross of making “misrepresentations of fact.”

Wednesday’s court filing by Ellis’ and Ross’ lawyers comes at a time when a separate criminal investigation is looking at the two men, according to court filings. In January, investigators searched the homes and offices of Ellis and Ross, and search warrants say the investigators were looking for evidence of fraud, bribery and other political corruption.

Both Ellis and Ross deny any wrongdoing, and they have not been charged with any criminal conduct.

#GaEthics

“Super Lobbyist” Jack Abramoff lost a lot when he was convicted of conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion in relation to his lobbying, but he apparently didn’t lose his chutzpah.

Abramoff, speaking at an Atlanta Press Club luncheon, praised Georgia lawmakers for taking on lobbyist gift reform but said the bill that passed the House this week has too many loopholes.

“If I were a lobbyist here I would run through that bill in three seconds,” he said. At a later stop, Abramoff referred to his speaking tour and said, “Wherever I went people would reference Georgia as the worst place for ethics.”

Abramoff was one of Washington’s most powerful lobbyists until he was sentenced in 2006 to four years in prison as part of a wide-ranging public corruption investigation. He was released from prison in 2010 and has since become an outspoken advocate of ethics reform and has traveled the country speaking on the topic and selling his book, “Capitol Punishment.”

The spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, who introduced the lobbying reform bill that passed the House, dismissed Abramoff’s criticism as uninformed.

“I would first ask if he had read the bill,” said the spokesman, Marshall Guest. “And then I would politely remind him that he couldn’t even register as a lobbyist here in Georgia because he is a convicted felon. The speaker has been working with Georgians who have good ideas on this issue as opposed to Washington insiders who are trying to profit from their wrongdoing by selling their book.”

Serious question: I noted yesterday that the Georgia Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission is hiring someone to audit filings. Shouldn’t that be built into the filing system, so that (a) filers are alerted to possible problems before they press send; and (b) filings are automatically audited, and then employees can examine flagged filings?

File under: Gun bans work

A student at Atlanta’s Grady High School shot herself in the leg with a gun she brought to school, leading to a lockdown.

Grady High officials learned of the shooting when Tukes walked into the school clinic, bleeding, around 9:30 a.m. Atlanta City School Superintendent Erroll Davis said the girl was late for class and was let into the Midtown school’s gymnasium by two other students.

While Davis noted Tukes told administrators she did not pass through the school’s metal detectors with the weapon — a pink .380-caliber handgun — parents expressed concern that a firearm had still been carried onto the campus.

“It’s ridiculous that something like this could happen,” parent Brunilda Nazario said.

According to several students interviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the metal detectors are functioning but are not closely monitored. For example, students are not required to remove rings or belts when passing through the detectors.

The assistant principal — not law enforcement — supervises the screening process, Davis said, adding they prefer placing school resource officers elsewhere.

“Our schools were not designed to be fortresses,” he said. “They were designed to be places of learning.”

Senior Imani Stanard said, “It’s not that hard to get anything into Grady.”

“Teachers do the searching but they don’t want to,” she said. “They’re here to teach, not to search students.”

Nikki Turner said her daughter, a ninth-grader, told her by phone that she didn’t know what had happened but felt safe.

“On one hand you can say gun control isn’t what it should be, but I don’t know if there’s any solution,” she said.

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