Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for March 5, 2013

Election today in the runoff election for HD 71 between Republicans David Stover and Thomas Crymes in Fayette and Coweta Counties.

Governor Deal Suspends DeKalb BOE

Federal Judge Richard Story lifted the injunction that prevented Governor Deal’s Executive Order suspending six members of the DeKalb County Board of Education, which will allow that order to take effect.

In an order filed late Monday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Richard Story turned down a request for a preliminary injunction that would have allowed the six school board members to remain in office while they continue to challenge the constitutionality of their removal.

Story  held  that state law issues raised in the complaint – which was filed two weeks ago  by the DeKalb County School District and board member Eugene Walker — should be decided by Georgia courts, not the federal courts.  To that end, Story said that he would certify the questions of state law  to the Georgia Supreme Court “rather than having to wait on a newly-filed state action to work its way through to appeal.”

The public has a “significant competing interest” to those of the school district and the school board, Story said in his ruling. “Though the public has an interest in its elected officials being allowed to serve in the offices to which they were elected, there is an even greater public interest at stake here,” he said.

“The interest of the public in a healthy public school system outweighs the interests of board members in serving in their positions. … The harm from the loss of accreditation to the school district and the resulting harm to the students in the district are profound. To permit the board members to continue to serve while their individual claims are resolved risks substantial consequences for the school district and its students. The Court finds that this risk of harm far outweighs the risks to the board members.”

“The school district has no interest in any particular person serving on the school board,” he wrote. “Rather, the interest  of the school district is that a duly constituted board be in place so that it can conduct business. The school board suspension statute assures continuity of operations through appointments by the governor to fill vacancies created by the suspensions. Thus, the loss of any property interest by the school district is not apparent to the Court.”

Story said that the only harm to the plaintiffs “is their temporary inability to perform the duties of the office to which they were elected. Because they are presently suspended with pay, they are suffering no monetary loss,” and any permanent removal of board members “can only occur after they have been afforded the process provided” established by state law.

In a written statement, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens applauded Story’s ruling as a “well-reasoned order affirming our position that the Governor was on solid legal ground in removing six DeKalb school board members. Judge Story correctly recognized that the students in the DeKalb school system must come first.  I appreciate Judge Story’s careful thought, hard work, and swift decision in this time-sensitive matter.”

Governor Nathan Deal responded to the order in a written statement:

the governor said the process he began last week will move forward. Deal also announced that the State Transportation Board member from the 4th Congressional District, Robert Brown of DeKalb County, will join Brad Bryant as a second liaison to the county’s school board to monitor progress.

“The court’s decision today will allow us to take the next steps toward protecting the futures of DeKalb’s students and maintaining the school system’s accreditation. I agree with the judge’s opinion that ‘the harm from the loss of accreditation to the School District and the resulting harm to the students in the district are profound,’” Deal said.

“Time is of the essence because we cannot have this cloud hang over the county or the state. The nominating panel appointed last week will continue to collect applications through Wednesday, and it will get to work quickly on filling the open seats so the board can become a functioning body.”

DeKalb Board member Gene Walker, who was suspended on the basis of the unanimous recommendation of the Georgia State Board of Education also issued a response.

I am dismayed but not deterred, following our setback in federal court Monday. I respectfully but wholeheartedly disagree with the judge’s decision, and I plan to continue to seek justice through the court system until this matter with the Governor is resolved. This is why:

I was born in Thomaston, a small town in Upson County Georgia. The indignity of segregation and racism was the backdrop of my youth. I swore at that time that I would stand up for my rights no matter the cost. I have not swayed from the self commitment, and virtually all my adult life has been dedicated to service to my fellow man, with a special dedication to education.

I preface this to explain, again, why I am obligated to engage the governor in the court system. It is morally abhorrent to sit idly by and allow the usurping of the one man one vote rights that has been bought and paid with the blood, sweat and tears of my generation. It is imperative that public servants preserve and protect the constitution and adhere to all laws, including the precept of a citizens’ right to choose their representative government. With the current assault of Section V of the voting rights act and the perpetual gerrymandering to disenfranchise races of people, I am compelled to employ every means available to me to protect citizens’ rights. The governor is using SACS and the State Board of Education as a hammer and chisel to chip away at the progress we have made.

If this unconstitutional act is to stand, then what is next? It will only be a matter of time before another constitutional right will be taken away by another wayward and self-perpetuating politico under the guise of the greater good. Minorities should not feel secure if contrived allegations from anonymous sources with hidden agendas can go to private agencies and to have their civil rights stolen away.

If you’re keeping track at home, your box score should reflect that the race card has been played.

For the lawyers and other gluttons for punishment out there, the AJC has a copy of the order in its entirety as a .pdf file.

Georgia General Assembly

Today is the Twenty-Ninth Legislative Day of the 2013 Session of the Georgia General Assembly. Day Thirty, called “Crossover Day,” after which any bills that haven’t passed at least one chamber are dead until the next Session, will be Thursday, March 6, 2013.

Today will be another full day with 15 bills in the Senate and 29 bills in the House.

Senator Frank Ginn Presenting Bill 2

Senate Rules Calendar

SB 1 by Senator Ligon and others – Child’s Health Insurance Information and Records; provide that both parents have equal access (I&L)

SB 99 by Senator Judson Hill and others – Taxation/Revenue; allow such taxes to be imposed at a rate of less than 1 percent (FIN)

SB 116 by Senator Curt Thompson and others – Homicide by Vehicle; increase the penalty  (JUDYNC-5th)

SR 378 by Senator Mullis and others – General Assembly; provide by law; dedication of revenues collected; sale of fireworks; funding of trauma care/firefighter services in state of Georgia-CA (I&L)

SB 145 by Senator Bill Heath and others – Agritourism; add farm weddings to the definition (Substitute) (FIN)

SB 155 by Senator Gooch and others – Georgia Higher Education Assistance Corporation; change membership to accommodate Fourteenth Congressional District (H ED)

SB 163 by Senator Ligon and others – Community Health Dept.; required to study and identify options for Medicaid reform (H&HS)

SB 178 by Senator Millar - Georgia Legislative Retirement System; define a certain term; broaden certain provision (RET)

SB 181 by Senator Bethel and others – Georgia History Month; declare September of each year (GvtO)

SB 185 by Senator Stone - Banking; secured transactions; change/provide for definitions; electronic chattel paper; provisions (JUDY)

SB 204 by Senator Cowsert and others – Appeal and Error; limit the scope of judgments/orders; child custody cases; direct appeal (JUDY)

SB 207 by Senator Albers and others – Probation of First Offenders; person disqualified from employment when discharged as felony offender; add private home care providers to list (PUB SAF)

SB 212 by Senator Mullis and others – Education; require schools to provide training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (ED&Y)

SB 216 by Senator Buddy Carter – Pharmacies; provide that medical director of an emergency service provider may contract with more than one pharmacy (PUB SAF)

SB 224 by Senator Tim Golden and others – Invest Georgia Fund; create (I&L)

Senate Meeting Calendar shows no committee meetings scheduled for today.

House Rules Calendar

HB 123 by State Rep. Lindsey and others – Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act; enact (Ed)

HB 188 by State Rep. Coomer and others – Professions and businesses; certain military certifications entitle persons to obtain certain professional licenses in this state; provide (D&VA)

HB 215 by State Rep. Benton – Superior courts; filings in the clerk’s office; change provisions (Judy)

HB 289 by State Rep. Kelley and others – Funds transfers; Uniform Commercial Code and federal law; clarify certain provisions (Judy)

HB 375 by State Rep. Bruce Williamson and others – Insurance; cancellations under certain circumstances relating to policy terms that permit an audit or rate investigation and noncompliance by insured; provide (Ins)

HB 381 by State Rep. Hatchett and others – Natural Resources, Department of; department creation and operation of a nonprofit corporation; revise provisions (NR&E)

HB 389 by State Rep. Darlene Taylor and others – Insurance; provide conversion and enhanced conversion rights and coverage; sunset requirements (Ins-Taylor-173rd)

HB 400 by State Rep. Sims - Elections; population brackets and the census for approval of bonded debt; repeal certain provisions (IGC)

HB 443 by State Rep. Willard and others – Fulton County Magistrate Court; successor to chief judge currently serving shall be appointed by Governor; provide (IGC)

HB 451 by State Rep. Smyre and others – Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit; provide for additional judge (Judy)

HB 475 by State Rep. Pak and others – Drivers’ licenses; commissioner to enter into reciprocal agreements on behalf of Georgia for recognition of licenses issued by foreign territories; authorize (MotV)

HB 482 by State Rep. Jay Neal and others – Corrections, Department of; employees serving as certified peace officers may retain their weapons under certain circumstances; provide (SProp)

HR 502 by State Rep. Tanner and others – Joint Study Committee on Mental Health and School Violence; create (H&HS)

HB 1 by State Rep. Willard and others – Georgia Uniform Civil Forfeiture Procedure Act; enact (Judy)

HB 276 by State Rep. Nimmer and others – Hazardous site response; appropriations to Department of Natural Resources and Georgia Hazardous Waste Management Authority; change certain procedures (Substitute)(NR&E-Nimmer-178th)

HB 323 by State Rep. Alan Powell and others – Motor vehicles; age for operation of certain commercial motor vehicle operators; modify (MotV)

HB 366 by State Rep. Hitchens and others – Peace officers; disciplining certified officers and requirements for certification; clarify application of provisions (PS&HS)

HB 382 by State Rep. Jay Powell and others – Torts; governing authority of school that enters into recreational joint-use agreement with public or private entity; limit liability (Judy)

HB 393 by State Rep. Mark Hamilton and others – Georgia Workforce Investment Board; provide for powers and duties; provisions (I&L)

HR 46 by State Rep. Holt and others – Pierce Lovett Cline Memorial Bridge; Newton County; dedicate (Trans)

HR 389 by State Rep. Atwood and others – Affordable Care Act; $100 billion federal sales tax on health insurance; request repeal (Ins)

HR 411 by State Rep. Hightower and others – Trooper Lieutenant Joseph “Joey” Keith Boatright Memorial Bridge; Carroll County; dedicate (Trans)

HB 159 by State Rep. Harrell and others – Ad valorem tax; property tax bills shall not include any nontax related fees or assessments; provide (W&M)

HB 164 by State Rep. Atwood and others – Sales and use tax; exemption regarding sale or use of engines, parts, equipment or other property used in maintenance of certain aircraft; eliminate sunset (W&M)

HB 193 by State Rep. Ron Stephens and others – Sales and use tax; tangible personal property to certain nonprofit health centers; provide exemption only for a limited period of time (W&M)

HB 250 by State Rep. Tom Rice - Local excise tax; sale or use of energy; revise certain provisions (W&M)

HB 304 by State Rep. McCall and others – Freeport exemption; applicability to fertilizer production processes; clarify (W&M)

HB 359 by State Rep. Nimmer and others – Unclaimed property; commissioner of revenue to deposit certain funds in state treasury; require (W&M)

House Meeting Calendar

TBD Floor Session (LD29) HOUSE CHAMBER (10:00am)
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM Utilities Subcommittee of Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications 406 CLOB
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 606 CLOB
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM JUDICIARY CIVIL 132 CAP
9:00 AM – 10:00 AM RULES 341 CAP
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM EDUCATION 506 CLOB
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM WAYS & MEANS 606 CLOB

Gun bills are moving, with Senate Bill 101 by Senator Frank Ginn passing the Georgia Senate  on a 41-10 vote. From Aaron Gould Sheinin and Kristina Torres at the AJC:

SB 101, which the Senate passed 41-10, would not be considered a dramatic shift in the state’s gun laws, although it could face alterations in the House.

Under the bill, the state would be prohibited from keeping any sort of database about who is issued a weapons carry license. Georgia would get out of the business of licensing gun dealers. Out-of-state gun owners with permission to carry guns at home would be allowed to carry guns here.

The Senate’s Judiciary Non-Civil Committee also added a provision that would lower to 18 the state’s prohibition on anyone under the age of 21 from carrying a gun, but only for military service members who have completed basic training. The language mirrors a separate bill introduced this year that has not yet reached the floor.

House Bill 512 by State Rep. Rick Jasperse passed out of Committee last night.

House Bill 512 would make it legal to carry firearms into bars, churches and parts of college campuses.

While House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, has previously said to expect no “dramatic shift” in the state’s gun laws, HB 512 has moved swiftly since being introduced just last week.

Georgians who have gone through the process to get a weapons permit should not face so many restrictions on where they may carry a gun, Jasperse said.

“People who have licenses, our most law-abiding citizens — fingerprinted, go through background checks and follow the rules — should be allowed to carry in these areas,” he said.

University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby spoke in opposition to HB 512.

The Senate is scheduled to vote today on SR 378 by Rules Chairman Jeff Mullia (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia), which would put a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot to legalize sales of fireworks in Georgia; passage of a Constitutional Amendment requires 2/3 majorities in both chambers and a majority vote in a statewide referendum. SB 229, also by Mullis, passed out of committee and is companion legislation that would set conditions for fireworks sales.

The bill’s sponsor, Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, and other proponents argue that fireworks are already here, the domain of backyard picnics and Fourth of July cookouts, despite a sales ban in Georgia on anything more powerful than sparklers and glow warms.

Mullis said the state would do better to reap the rewards of the thousands of Georgians who currently travel every year outside state lines to places like Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina, where the sale of fireworks is legal.

“We lose millions of dollars of revenue because people go out of state to buy fireworks,” Mullis said. Of fireworks, he said, “They’re dangerous, but so is walking across the street. Let’s regulate it and make it as safe as possible.”

Moms across Georgia oppose the bills, saying, “you’ll put your eye out.

Tort reform is less likely now, with two unrelated bills apparently dead for now. Senate Bill 141 to change the way medical malpractice cases are handled, introduced by Sen. Brandon Beach was tabled in the Health & Human Service Committee.

Speaking before a packed room at the Capitol, the bill’s sponsor, freshman senator Brandon Beach (R – Alpharetta), blamed rising healthcare costs on too many unnecessary medical procedures.

Beach said those could be cut down if doctors weren’t so concerned about million dollar lawsuits.

“Not all physicians practice defensive medicine, just the overwhelming majority,” said Beach.

But trial lawyers, physician groups, and consumer advocates all worked to get the bill tossed.

Former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, who now is in private practice, testified against it.

“I’ll be very frank with you, I don’t think the act has got a snowball’s chance in Hades of standing constitutional muster. I don’t know how to make it any plainer.”

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford), who chairs the HHS Committee tabled her own bill, SB 202, which would have created rules for arbitration in cases involving complaints against nursing homes. The bill met opposition from Trial Lawyers and some advocates for seniors.

Advocates for elderly Georgians testified last week before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee that they feared patients and their families would be pressured into signing away their constitutional right to a jury trial during the often painful and confusing admission process. For nursing homes, Senate Bill 202 would have helped prevent family members who sign an arbitration agreement from later trying to dispute it in court.

Legal Notices

Congratulations to the University of Georgia Moot Court Team on winning a National Championship at the 23rd Annual National First Amendment Moot Court Competition at Vanderbilt Law School last year. If you happen to know one of the team members, you can expect to hear about it for the next 20-30 years.

Crawford County Magistrate Judge Andrea Peterman was charged with fiduciary theft and jailed.

2014 Porsche 911 GT3

PI-VR GmbH vred 6.07Atlanta based Porsche Cars North America announced the 2014 911 GT3 track model, on which the new GT3 cars will be based. From the press release:

The car now sprints from zero to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds on its way to a top track speed of 195 mph. The 2014 911 GT3 will go on sale in the United States late in 2013 and will be priced from $130,400, not including a $950 destination charge.

The new GT3 brings to everyday driving many of the properties of a sports car developed on the track, and preserves the highly emotional fun factor.

Porsche 911 GT RS 4 991 Atlanta Motorsports ParkHere’s the last generation Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0 as seen on the track at Atlanta Motorsports Park, chased by the latest model 911 Carrera.

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