Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 5, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 5, 2015

On January 5, 1734, the Trustees of Georgia ordered the return of 42 Jewish settlers who had come in 1733, primarily from Portugal, without the knowledge or approval of the Trustees. The Brits who sponsored the Jewish settlers refused and Georgia is home to the oldest Jewish settlement in the United States.

On January 1, 1751, the law prohibiting slavery in Georgia was repealed after an act passed by the Georgia Trustees the previous year.

On January 2, 1766, some Sons of Liberty marched on the Royal Governor’s Mansion in Savannah to “discuss” the Stamp Act, which required the use of stamped paper for all printing as a means of taxing the colonies. They were met by a pistol-toting Governor Wright. The next day, January 3, 1766, the Royal Stamp Master arrived at Tybee Island and was taken to the Governor’s Mansion. On that day, Georgia became the first and only colony in which the stamp tax was actually collected.

Georgia became the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution on January 2, 1788.

Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts became the first United States Senator to be censured by the body on January 2, 1811.

Delaware, technically at the time a slave state, rejected a proposal to secede from the United States on January 3, 1861.

The Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln went into effect in eleven Southern states on January 1, 1863, though parts of Virginia and Louisiana were exempt.

On January 3, 1973, Andrew Young was sworn in as the first African-American Congressman from Georgia since 1871.

Utah was admitted as the 45th state on January 4, 1896. Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959.

Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich was elected Speaker of the House on January 4, 1995, the third Georgian to wield the gavel. This marked the first time in more than forty years that Republicans controlled the House of Representatives.

On January 4, 1999, in DeKalb County, State Court Judge Al Wong became the first Asian-American judge in Georgia and the Southeast.

Capitol History: Delaware

The historic notes have been very popular, and this year we’ll try changing it up so as to not just repeat last year’s history. Each week, we’ll talk about a different state’s capital city and State Capitol, roughly in order by their date of admission to the United States.

Delaware Old State House Dover

Delaware was the first State to ratify the United States Constitution on December 7, 1787. The Old State House (above) in Dover, Delaware was built between 1787 and 1792 and served as the seat of state government until 1932.

Today, the Delaware state legislature meets in Delaware Legislative Hall, also in Dover, opposite the Old State House. Legislative Hall was completed in 1933, with wings added in 1965 and 1970 to provide office space for legislators.

Delaware_State_Capitol

Click here for online tours and more information on the Delaware Legislative Hall.

Georgia Politics

One week from today, at 2 PM on January 12, 2015, Nathan Deal will be sworn-in for his second term as Governor of Georgia at 2 PM in Liberty Plaza across from the State Capitol. At 9 AM on that day, a prayer service will be held at Mount Paran Church.

A story by the Associated Press talks about Governors’ inaugurals across the nation, and focuses on how they’re paid for, discussing Georgia’s inaugural.

Aides to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said he planned to disclose the donors to his swearing-in activities. His inauguration includes a concert from country star Alan Jackson and Atlanta-based Coca Cola producing a special bottle.

Deal, a Republican, was criticized in 2011 for not detailing how his inaugural money was spent, but he did disclose donor names afterward. AT&T and Cigna, a health insurer, were among those making contributions.

He and other governors throwing big parties reject suggestions of influence-buying and say private donors are buying nothing more than a good time for everyone.

“This privately-funded gala celebration is a way to thank Georgians in every corner of their state for their support of the governor and the rest of our statewide elected officials,” Deal spokeswoman Jennifer Talaber said.

 

The annual Eugene C. Tillman/Ron Crews Prayer Convocation Service with Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, will be held Sunday, January 11, 2015, 2:30 PM to 4:30 PM in the North Wing of the State Capitol.

Lest we forget that elections have consequences, the Gwinnett Daily Post took a look at legislation that went into effect January 1, 2015.

Additional fees for reckless driving

During the Nov. 4 election, voters ratified a constitutional amendment approving additional fees for reckless driving convictions. The fees — per Act 522 (H.B. 870) — are earmarked for the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund and go into effect on Jan. 1.

Tax exemptions for agricultural machinery

Effective Jan. 1, 2015, and applicable to all taxable years thereafter, Act 533 (H.B. 983) clarifies what agricultural machinery and equipment is exempt from state sales and use taxes.

Collection of debts owed to courts

Under Act 478 (H.B. 1000), those owing debts to all trial courts in the state are subject to having their state income tax refunds docked in order to settle those debts.

Article V convention delegates

In the event two-thirds of the states call for an Article V convention — a convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution — Georgia will be ready. Act 528 (H.B. 930) specifies how delegates will be selected. It also allows for the creation of an advisory group to assist the delegates with legal questions regarding any potential amendments.

Year-end campaign disclosure reports are rolling in ahead of a January 7th end to the grace period for filing. The Rome News-Tribune took a look at their local delegation’s reports.

Total spending on the 2014 election for United States Senate in Georgia topped $74 million dollars.

Candidates and outside groups spent more than $74 million on the nearly two-year derby to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, according to final tallies from the Federal Election Commission.

The Democratic and Republican state parties combined to spend an additional $12.7 million over the election cycle, much of it funneled in from the national parties to coordinated campaigns for all of each side’s candidates.

“What we saw in Georgia is what is becoming very commonplace in Senate contests around the country,” said Joel McElhannon, an Athens-based consultant who worked with the Georgia Republican Party.

“High-stakes Senate contests are generating this kind of money,” McElhannon said. “It’s the new reality of campaigns in America after the Citizens United decision (by the U.S. Supreme Court) that you’re going to have enormous outside spending, particularly when you have something as important as control of the U.S. Senate at stake.”

Nationwide, Georgia’s U.S. Senate race was the fifth-most-expensive – according to tallies by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics – with North Carolina leading the pack at $118 million.

In that same article is an interesting little tidbit about how television advertising can be bought in some markets.

The Perdue campaign devoted about 10 percent of its television budget to targeting individual voters who have Dish or DirecTV.

A typical television buy is a bet that the voters you want to reach are watching “Wheel of Fortune” or the Falcons game at a specific time, while also sending a lot of other people your message. But this new approach allows campaigns to take their voter file and match it with satellite customers, then send them the ad — regardless of what programs they are watching.

As an added bonus, campaigns only pay for the ads the voters actually watch.

Perdue’s top consultant, Paul Bennecke, said the tactic was especially useful for television markets that overlap from Georgia into neighboring states, such as Tallahassee, Fla.

“It’s highly cost-efficient because you’re only reaching households you want to reach,” said Bennecke, who said this was the first time the technology has been employed in Georgia.

“It is feeding them based on them actually viewing the TV spot,” he said, “instead of just hoping they are watching the program.”

Addressable advertising is primarily available today on Dish and DirecTV, though Comcast is currently rolling it out. If, like me, you recently received a notice from Comcast that they’re sending you new equipment, this is probably part of the rollout.

Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, is ready to deliver addressable ads on a household level and will rollout the service fully this year.  The ads will be the two-minutes that the cable programmers provide MSO’s within each hour.

These are generally local ads.  Comcast is not delivering the network-level ads on an addressable basis.

Who’s the Boss in DeKalb Schools?

Newly-elected DeKalb County School Board Member Stan Jester has refused to be fingerprinted by the DeKalb County School Board because he’s not an employee of the school system, for whom fingerprinting and background checks are mandated, and he doesn’t trust the system’s ability to ensure his privacy. Jester sent a statement to WSB:

“I do not object to a thorough background check or being fingerprinted.  In fact, last week I sent the Chair a copy of my background check completed by the Dunwoody Police Department.  Additionally, I have already made arrangements to have my fingerprints taken by the DeKalb County Police Department tomorrow morning to address anyone’s concerns.  I will be putting my reports online and they will be made available for anyone to see.  I challenge the rest of the board members and administration to do the same.  I do reject the manner and rationale of the board Chair in dealing with this issue.  It has ranged from inaccurate to intimidating.  Our children deserve better.  Rather than try to bully or embarrass other board members, I will take great care to do what is in the best interests of children and taxpayers.”

Given that this dispute was obviously leaked by someone in DeKalb County Schools to Rachel Stockman at WSB-TV, who then filed an Open Records request for emails between Stan Jester and Melvin Johnson, who chairs the board. Stan Jester has made the entire chain of emails available to the public on his website. Here are some great quotes:

I cited for you both the DCSD policy (DCSD Policy GAHB) and Official State Code of Georgia (§ 20-2-51) that explicitly indicate that employees cannot serve as board members. Board policy and state law are both absolutely clear in this regard.

Subsequently, you responded with more rationales for obtaining my digital fingerprints. My summary of those three rationales:

(1) It has been practice and no one has ever complained.

(2) State law prevents anyone with a “conviction of a felony involving moral
turpitude…” from serving;

(3) Pursuant to DCSD Policy GAK(1) criminal background checks, including fingerprinting, are conducted on every individual employed by the District and of volunteers approved to serve students directly; and

(4) You are concerned about the overall safety of our schools and without some sort of confirmation that I am not a criminal, you earnestly believe that safety is somehow compromised.

Allow me to address each rationale:

(1) Practice is not policy or law. Board members are not employees of the district according to state law and policy. Simply because no board member objected to the procedure in the past doesn’t alienate me from my right to do so. I know of at least one other board member who did object.

(2) As you noted, Georgia law has qualifications for elected office, including not having a “conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude”. You must also be aware that every candidate had to submit an affidavit attesting to meeting these qualifications. I certainly did so.

(3) We have established that I am not an employee.

Your third rationale for obtaining my digital fingerprints referenced the policy that said employees and volunteers were fingerprinted. I certainly cannot be considered a volunteer as members of the BOE are elected and compensated.

(4) As a parent with three children in public schools, no one is more committed than I am to ensuring that schools are safe. I also remain committed to mitigating the risk of theft of personal information and as a matter of principle I do not provide more data than is required.

I am sure you are aware of the security breaches within large retailers (Target, Home Depot) and the recent breach into Sony. You may also recall that Georgia’s own Department of Labor exposed critical information on thousands of Georgian’s in 2013.

And in 2014, an employee with the Registrar’s Office at The University of Georgia stole student data. I am increasingly concerned about the data collection on students within school districts. One cannot be too careful in this regard.

As a technology professional, I take exception to your reliance on the district’s practices regarding the privacy and “disposal” of my data. You do realize that the fingerprinting method is digital and one can almost never “dispose” of digital data.

Jester has also made public a criminal background check he had run by the Dunwoody Police Department, redacting his social security number. It turned up absolutely nothing. This morning, he will also be fingerprinted at his request by Dunwoody Police and the report will be posted publicly on his website as well.

I have a suggestion: all the Board Members, including Mr. Johnson should submit to voluntary and periodic urine tests. It would be fair to redact any results showing the use of medications for which the member has a valid prescription at the time. Let’s make this a literal peeing contest, not just a media-enabled figurative one.

I think the biggest issue here is that procedures like these attempt to put the cart before the horse by treating elected Board Members as employees of the Department. You see this issues not just at local school boards, but at the Georgia Department of Education. The concept is similar to that of “captive agencies,” where regulatory bodies become so influenced by the industry they regulate as to adopt many of the views of the industry itself.

Elected Board of Education members and State School Superintendents come and go, but the bureaucracy ensures it’s own long-term survival by surrounding the elected officials by “experts” to guide the officials in doing the bidding of the bureacrats. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.

The reason we elect the State School Superintendent and local Boards of Education is not to simply have another layer of bureaucracy – the reason is to provide taxpayers and voters some measure of control over the inexorable growth of yet another government agency with, in the case of Counties, the power to raise their taxes. School districts treating Board Members as employees is a bad start and shows that some in Georgia government don’t understand the role of elected officials in our Constitutional form of government.

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