Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 17, 2015

17
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 17, 2015

On March 17, 1762, the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in New York City by Irish serving in the British army; the date commemorates the death of St. Patrick in 461.

On March 17, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed legislation granting African-Americans the same rights as whites for contracts, suits, inheritance, property, and punishments for violation of the law.

On March 17, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed a joint resolution of the state legislature to place a plaque on the wall of the Georgia Capitol commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the founding of Georgia.

On March 17, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation creating a commission to revise the 1877 Constitution of Georgia.

Under the Gold Dome Today

2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Finance Subcommittee – Mezz 1
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Transportation Committee – 450 cap

Today’s meeting of the Senate Transportation Committee, Chaired by Senator Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) will take up House Bill 170, the Transportation Finance Act. Kyle Wingfield of the AJC writes about what a Senate version of the transportation tax might look like,

“Most senators believe that we should have some skin in the game,” Williams told me after the Senate adjourned Wednesday, “that we shouldn’t just look for a tax increase without looking at our own budget.”

That means shifting more than just the “fourth penny” of the motor-fuel tax from the state’s general fund to the transportation budget, as HB 170 does.

“The motor fuel tax is a diminishing tax” thanks to fuel-efficiency gains, he said, “so we’re trying to find something that’s a growing number.”

One number that’s been growing in recent years is the state’s general revenue. “If we were to put a couple hundred million dollars a year” from general revenue growth into transportation, he said, “within a few years you could generate some significant money.”

He conceded that requires “the will of the Legislature” for years to come, whereas an excise tax on gasoline is constitutionally bound to go to DOT. “Unless you pass a constitutional amendment, you can’t guarantee that happens. But I think we need to culture ourselves to believe if we have excess revenue, it’s not just education and bonds we look at. We need to look at transportation.”

“We’re not taking any locals’ money,” Williams said. “I have not talked to a senator who thinks we should be taking the locals’ money. … You can’t tell a county that’s got 40 percent of their money coming in (from) motor fuel that they’ve got to spend it all on transportation. It just doesn’t work for them.”

Voters in the City of Atlanta will decide two questions related to issuing approximately $250 million in bonds.

On the ballot, you’ll see them as two separate issues: $187.9 million for public streets, traffic control, curbing, storm water drainage, signs, bridges, streetlights, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian improvements, and $64 million for improvements on public buildings.

Not surprisingly, it’s business-types who are driving the pro-bond referendum, according to the AJC.

Some of Atlanta’s biggest corporate players are backing Mayor Kasim Reed’s $250 million infrastructure bond effort, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars into an 11th hour get-out-the-vote campaign.

Citizens for Better Infrastructure, an independent committee formed last month, raised $432,750 dollars in March from several key business allies, according to campaign disclosure records.

The Atlanta Committee for Progress, a board of top CEOs and academic leaders often tapped to assist with Reed’s initiatives, are the single largest contributors to the campaign, giving $225,000 in March.

Many ACP members, such as Delta CEO Richard Anderson, served on a blue ribbon commission last year to help the city identify cost-savings measures to pay for the bonds.

As of last week, Citizens for Better Infrastructure spent about $323,000 on direct mailings, robocalls and media advertisements to encourage voters to approve the referendum. The committee also launched a social media campaign in late February, postings photos of the group’s efforts.

Jeb Bush in Atlanta

On Thursday, former Florida Governor and potential Presidential contender Jeb Bush will tour the Georgia State Capitol, according to the AJC Political Insider.

Bush is now scheduled to make two high-profile appearances before the state House and Senate. He’ll drop in on Gov. Nathan Deal, too. The noonish appearances could easily coincide with the lunchtime broadcasts of several Atlanta television stations.

Straw Poll follow-up

Gwinnett Dawson GARCC Muscogee Cherokee Total %age
Scott Walker 77 12 527 23 30 669 41.73%
Ben Carson 20 1 119 4 1 145 9.05%
Rand Paul 12 1 185 2 11 211 13.16%
Ted Cruz 7 75 4 8 94 5.86%
Jeb Bush 6 1 95 5 4 111 6.92%
Marco Rubio 5 2 46 2 3 58 3.62%
Bobby Jindal 5 20 1 26 1.62%
Mike Huckabee 3 1 71 5 80 4.99%
Rick Perry 2 1 29 5 37 2.31%
Allen West 2 4 6 0.37%
Chris Christie 2 12 1 2 17 1.06%
Carly Fiorina 1 8 1 10 0.75%
John Kasich 11 1 12 0.75%
Paul Ryan 8 1 9 0.56%
Rick Santorum 7 3 0 10 0.62%
Mitt Romney 1 write-in 30 2 32 2.00%
Undecided 2 73 1 76 4.74%
1603

*GARCC also reported 6 votes for Mike Pence, 2 votes for Donald Trup, and single votes for John Bolton, Newt Gingrich, Trey Gowdy, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Ronald Reagan, and Jeff Sessions. The Georgia Association of Republican County Chairmen includes some of the counties that are broken out separately.

OTP

Cindy Ann Doyles was indicted for allegedly stealing more than $25,000 when she served as Peach County Chief Deputy Tax Commissioner.

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia will meet on Wednesday and is expected to approve changing the name of Middle Georgia State College to University.

The Muscogee County School Board has approved a two-step plan to address salary issues where some long-time employees are making less than new hires in the same position.

In Muscogee County, polls are open until 7 PM today for voters to cast ballots on the proposed E-SPLOST to fund education capital projects.

For months now, supporters and opponents of the special tax have been debating, arguing and stating their cases for instituting and rejecting the Education SPLOST. The school district wants to pass the special 1% tax to raise about $193 million over five years for various projects.

Some of the funding would go to a new Spencer High School and classrooms and classes specially designed for autistic children.

Opponents of the tax want more accountability in the school district. They say they would like a comprehensive audit of the district’s finances before passing the tax increase.

Election officials confirm that nearly 5,000 people have already cast their ballots in the early voting period. Another 550 people have mailed in absentee ballots.

Meriwether County residents will go to the ballots today for a County Commission Special Election in which my friend William McKeen is a candidate.

Voters in Avondale Estates will go to the polls today to elect a new Mayor after the last one resigned.

Five candidates are running for the position which only lasts until December 31. The city says the mayor’s seat will be up for reelection on Nov. 3 of this year, with that elected candidate beginning a four-year term on Jan. 1, 2016.

Paul Brown, Jonathan Elmore, Jim Hutchens, John Pomberg, and Todd Pullen all took part in a mayoral forum on February 19. They answered questions from community members about transparency, parking, and annexation.

Avondale Estates said voting on Tuesday will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in two locations:

  • Avondale Estates City Hall, 21 North Avondale Plaza
  • For the newly annexed area of Stratford Green Townhomes (ONLY), voting will take place at Avondale Pattillo United Methodist Church, 3260 Covington Highway, Decatur, Georgia 30032

Richmond County will elect a new Augusta Commissioner in District 7 today, though turnout is expected to be light. Meanwhile, the Augusta Chronicle analyzed how frequently the candidates themselves have gone to the polls.

The Augusta Chronicle looked into the voting records of interim Commissioner Louis “Hap” Harris, retired mortgage banker Sonny Pittman and charity Development Director Sean Frantom going back to 2000.

The records, which don’t specify how someone votes but whether they participate, revealed Harris voted 88 percent of the time, missing the fewest – five elections – of 40 opportunities.

Harris, 65, participated in the 2012 Democratic primary showdown between sheriff’s candidate Scott Peebles and Sheriff Richard Roundtree, but selected a Republican primary ballot 13 times and a nonpartisan ballot once.

Pittman voted 80 percent of the time, missing eight of 40 elections, including Georgia’s 2004 flag vote, a 2009 sales tax referendum and the 2010 general election for mayor and his own Super District 10.

Pittman, 68, voted in the 2008 Democratic primary but chose a Republican primary ballot on 10 other occasions.

But of 29 known election opportunities he had – including general primaries, sales tax referenda, presidential primaries and general elections, Frantom missed 14, for a voting track record of 48 percent.

He voted three times in Columbia County during the early 2000s, but missed two sales tax referenda, two presidential primaries, the state flag vote and two general elections there.

Next door, Columbia County voters will decide on an E-SPLOST.

If approved, the education special purpose local option sales tax referendum will renew collection of the tax starting in 2017, with the expectation that it will fund about $140 million in improvements and additions to Columbia County’s rapidly growing school system.

The growth isn’t expected to slow any time soon. School officials expect at least 700 additional students to enroll next fall and even more in coming years as about 3,700 cyber defense employees are added to Fort Gordon’s workforce, bringing their families to the community.

Hall County residents will have the opportunity to vote for or against SPLOST VII on March 17, 2015.

In Dawson County, voters will cast ballots in elections on an E-LOST (Local Option Sales Tax for Education) and to fill a vacancy on Dawsonville City Council.

A special election will be held in the City of Ephesus, Georgia.

Talbot County will hold a referendum on package sales of beer, wine, and liquor.

Whitfield County will hold an election on a SPLOST for public safety funding today.

College Park will hold elections on a Freeport Tax Exemption, and for one City Council race.

The City of Carrollton is holding a Special Election on a Carrollton City Schools Bond Referendum.

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