Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for January 16, 2014

On January 15, 1751, a Provincial Assembly convened in Savannah, after the Georgia Trustees called for a popular election. Among the issues discussed was whether Georgia should be annexed into South Carolina. This marked the first elected representative government in Georgia.

On January 15, 1796, Jared Irwin was inaugurated Governor of Georgia for his first term. Irwin repealed the Yazoo Act. Irwin County, the city of Irwinville, and the town of Irwinton are named after Governor Irwin. He previously served in the State House and the convention that ratified the United States Constitution in 1787. After his first term in office, Irwin served as President of the State Senate and became Governor again in 1806 when Gov. John Milledge resigned. After completing that term, he was elected to another full term as Governor.

January 15, 1870 saw the first appearance of the donkey as the symbol for the Democratic party in a Harper’s Weekly illustration by Thomas Nast.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. I had the pleasure of working at the State Capitol several years ago with a lady who had known King as a youngster, as a fellow member of “Daddy” King’s church and schoolmate. Dr. King’s march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama helped the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

On January 15, 1963, Carl Sanders was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia. In 1970. Sanders ran again for Governor, losing to Jimmy Carter.

On January 16, 1919, the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, prohibiting alcoholic beverages.

On January 16, 1997, a bomb exploded in a Sandy Springs abortion clinic, later determined to be the work of Eric Rudolph, who also bombed Centennial Olympic Park in 1996, a lesbian bar in Atlanta in February 1997, and a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998.

Last night on Facebook, a friend asked why the Georgia legislature is addressing the scheduling of party primary elections. Here’s what he said:

Question. Why is the state supervising and funding party primaries?
Parties are private organizations. Let ‘em run (and pay for) their own primaries.

That’s a legitimate question. Here’s why.

After Reconstruction, whites in some Southern states attempted to retain exclusive power and deny black citizens the right to vote. One of the tools they used was “white primary” elections. After Supreme Court decisions striking down state-administered white primaries, some states then tried privatizing the primary elections as a way of continuing to disenfranchise black voters. An initial Supreme Court allowed this, reasoning that private parties were free to determine eligibility of voters.

In 1944, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas statute allowing “private” party primaries on the basis that it amounted to state-sanctioned discrimination, as the state had delegated the responsibility of administering elections to the Democratic Party.

On July 4, 1944, Primus King, a registered voter, tried to cast a ballot at the Muscogee County Courthouse in the Democratic Primary and was turned away. A federal district court found for King in his lawsuit, ruling that denying him the right to vote was unconstitutional.

The United States Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld the district court decision in an opinion written by Judge Samuel Hale Sibley, a Georgia native and alumnus of UGA and the UGA School of Law. Thurgood Marshall, later an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, was one of the lawyers representing Primus King.

So, that’s why the state administers party primary elections in Georgia.

Pro-tip for legislators

Take down the donation button or page on your website for the duration of the Session. From Fox 5 Atlanta:

[O]n the second day of this year’s session, FOX 5 found a number of lawmakers potentially soliciting donations.

FOX 5′s Chris Shaw found both Democrats and Republicans in both the state House and Senate accepting donations when law says they cannot. Most said it was simply an oversight, some took measures to pull donation pages from their websites while FOX 5 cameras rolled.

Here’s what to do if you inadvertently left your donation button or page active. The news account quoted above is not entirely correct about accepting contributions during session. Section 21-5-35 of the Act formerly known as the Ethics in Government Act states:

§21-5-35. Acceptance of contributions or pledges during legislative sessions

(a) No member of the General Assembly or that member’s campaign committee or public officer elected state wide or campaign committee of such public officer shall seek or accept a contribution or a pledge of a contribution to the member, the member’s campaign committee, or public officer elected state wide, or campaign committee of such public officer during a legislative session.

(b)Subsection (a) of this Code section shall not apply to:

(1) The receipt of a contribution which is returned with reasonable promptness to the donor or the donor’s agent;
(2) The receipt and acceptance during a legislative session of a contribution consisting of proceeds from a dinner, luncheon, rally, or similar fundraising event held prior to the legislative session;
(3) The receipt of a contribution by a political party consisting of the proceeds from a dinner,luncheon, rally, or similar fundraising event in which a member of the General Assembly or a public officer elected state wide participates; or<
(4) A judicial officer elected state wide, a candidate for a judicial office elected state wide, or a campaign committee of such judicial officer or candidate

That said, if you receive a contribution during the session, your best bet is to return it immediately, and document the check you sent.

Governor Deal’s State of the State

The Senate Press Office brings you a nearly-three minute “Senate in a Minute,” featuring Governor Deal’s State of the State.

Click here for the full text of the State of the State address.

Here are some of the best quotes from the State of the State 2014:

1.My basic focus has been on creating private-sector jobs for Georgians. With your help and the involvement of our business community, we have done some great things. We have implemented real tax reform, such as eliminating sales tax on energy for manufacturing; we have essentially removed the marriage tax penalty on working Georgia couples; and we have abolished the annual birthday tax on vehicles. And each of these are part of a mosaic that led Site Selection Magazine to declare Georgia to be the number one state in the nation in which to do business.

2. the Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable and is costing our state $327 million dollars this year. You should be aware that, even without expanding, currently Medicaid and PeachCare cost every Georgian through federal and state taxes nearly $1,000 each year. Expansion would add 620,000 people to our taxpayer funded health plan, costing us even more. Now, the executive branch in Washington is trying to do what the courts deemed unconstitutional for Congress to do, but we will not allow ourselves to be coerced into expansion. Be assured, I am prepared to fight any intrusion into our rights as a state.

3. According to the federal department of labor, in the three years since I became governor, there have been approximately 217,000 new jobs added in our state, and major job announcements are almost a weekly occurrence. As a result, our state unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 5 years!

4. I have included $35M for the deepening of the Port of Savannah. If approved, we will have $266M, which will represent Georgia’s share of this important project.

5. For students who pursued those areas, we have paid 100 percent of their tuition through the HOPE Grant. This year I am asking you to expand that to an additional 4 areas of training—welding, health care technology, diesel mechanics and information technology.

In order to fill the needs of a growing economy, we need more of our citizens to acquire education and skills beyond high school. To encourage this, I am asking you to create a new Zell Miller HOPE Grant for students in our technical college system. This grant will cover 100 percent of tuition for those who maintain a 3.5 grade point average.

6.[D]uring my administration, funding for education has increased by over $930M. That does not include capital spending for education, which represents 76% of our entire state bond package. $239M of this year’s capital investments went to the Department of Education for use on K-12 programs. Since FY 2012, nearly 50 cents of every dollar of new revenues has been dedicated to education. In the budget I am sending you for FY 2015 almost 82 percent of new revenue receipts are dedicated to education, with 68 percent of those new revenues going to k-12 alone.

As these numbers indicate, we will spend almost $8 billion in next year’s budget on k-12 education. My proposal represents the largest single year increase in k-12 funding in 7 years. That’s an addition of $547M….

7. I have included $44.8M in the budgets to better connect every classroom in Georgia, including those in rural areas, to the internet and digital resources students need to thrive. It is my goal that every child in any classroom in our state will have access to the best instruction possible, and this can be done by expanding the availability of our on-line learning.

8. This year, we intend to roll out our third leg of our criminal justice reforms, the one that will sustain our previous efforts.  If an offender has been equipped to enter the workforce upon release, that person will stand a greater chance of avoiding relapse.  If our reentry and reform efforts reduce our recidivism rate by 25 percent, we would see around 1,400 fewer crimes each year, with at least 1,100 fewer victims!  This is a goal we should be able to achieve or exceed.

These Criminal Justice reforms will allow non-violent offenders to break their addictions, reclaim their lives and keep taxpayers from spending $18,000 per inmate for each year they are in prison. These reforms will also increase the safety of our society.

9. [T]oday, more Georgians have jobs than at any other time since October 2008. We are getting people in our state back to work at a faster rate than the national average. For those 217,000 or so Georgians who now have jobs, they know what the sting of the frozen economy feels like. They lived through it. But for them, the freeze has ended.

This is what we’ve done in three years … imagine what we will do in the next five.

And since Georgia has now been recognized as the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business, we can rightfully expect many more jobs to come our way.

Here’s an audio clip that we’ve converted to a YouTube clip, so that it can be viewed on an iPhone or other mobile devices when you receive our morning email. It’s a bit of work to do it, but we’re interested in whether you think it’s useful.

Senator David Shafer released a statement:

“I applaud Governor Deal on his third State of the State Address. Georgia has a come long way in the last three years, with 217,000 new jobs and millions of dollars in new private system. The Governor’s low tax policies are exactly what we need to keep attracting new business. I look forward to hearing from the Governor again next year and three years to follow.”

Today under the Gold Dome

Capitol Dome inside

8:00 AM – 9:30 AM    Appropriations Higher Education    606 CLOB

8:00 AM – 10:00 AM    Joint Appropriations Education    341 CAP

8:00 AM – 10:00 AM    Joint Appropriations Public Safety    506 CLOB

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM (Projected) Floor Session

12:30 PM – 5:30 PM    Joint Appropriations Economic Development and General Government    307 CLOB

12:30 PM – 4:00 PM    Joint Appropriations Health and Human Services    341 CAP

12:30 PM – 3:00 PM    Joint Appropriations Public Safety    506 CLOB

Catherine Bernard announces for House District 80

Catherine Bernard, who has recently changed her residence and, after the lesson from Keith Gross a couple years ago, her car tags, to DeKalb County, where she will challenge incumbent Republican State Representative Mike Jacobs.

CatherineBernard AnnouncesHer website can be found at VoteCatherine.com. It’s worth noting that yesterday was apparently her birthday. She can thank Rep. Jacobs for his vote to repeal the Birthday Tax, which meant that she didn’t have to pay ad valorem tax to renew her car tag yesterday.

Kelly Marlow seeks reversal

Cherokee County School Board member Kelly Marlow appealed a $3600 fine levied by the Board of which she is a member for raising concerns with the agency that accredits public schools in Georgia.

“What Ms. Marlow did is send a letter to AdvancEd in which she made several, pretty serious allegations against the board chair and the board, and never did she address those concerns to the Board of Education,” Roach said.
Marlow said she was sanctioned for the “act of sending a letter,” and if the sanction is upheld, “the effect would be chilling.”
“It will send a message that the voice of the minority does not matter,” she said. “It’s not OK for a member, who is in the minority, to speak up when they see something wrong. To not be able to say, ‘I smell smoke, I think there may be a fire.’”
Roach said the “matter of free speech in this context is quite complicated.”

Here’s a general rule regarding free speech: if someone says the issue of free speech is “complicated,” they’re almost always trying to use government to stop it.

The First Amendment statement that Congress [later extended to most levels of government] “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” is no more complicated than the Second Amendment’s statement that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Rep. Allen West to speak in Cobb County

Former Congressman (and retired Lt. Colonel) Allen West will deliver the keynote address at the Cobb County Republican Party’s President’s Day Dinner on February 17, 2014 at the Renaissance Waverly. Save the date if you’re interested in going, and be sure to purchase your tickets as soon as they’re available, as the event is likely to sell out.

This is the third announcement on what appears to be an Allen West tour of Georgia. Does he have a book out or about to be released? Why, yes, he does. In April, Allen West’s book Guardian of the Republic: An American Ronin’s Journey to Faith, Family and Freedom will be released.

The Lee County Republican Party is holding a Lincoln Day Dinner on February 27, 2014, with proceeds benefiting the Bridging the Gap Foundation. The featured speaker will be LTC Allen West, who served in Congress from Florida.

Bridging The Gap of Georgia is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization created to assist veterans with their transition home.  Many of the veterans we serve suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Combat Stress and are homeless. We utilize a mentorship program to enable veterans to function as productive members of our society by addressing their housing, job placement, and health needs.

We’re still awaiting details on the location of the Muscogee County Republican Party event on February 28, 2014.

Your Events Calendar


Cobb YR: Happy Hour

January 16, 2014 7:00 PM @ 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Old Vinings Inn,

3011 Paces Mill Road Atlanta , GA 30339 United States

+ Google Map

Old Vinings Inn was built in the 1880s and served as the village post office. Over the years, the building was purchased and renovated, used as an apartment building, a general store, a filling-station with a family residence upstairs. This unique setting is full of warmth and of history. Today’s Old Vinings Inn is inviting and sophisticated while preserving its rich history — the perfect setting for an evening out.

Find out more »


Georgia Tea Party: Meeting with David Wellons on Obamacare

January 16, 2014 from 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Unnamed Venue, 900 Roswell St Marietta , GA 30060

+ Google Map

David Wellons, a 25-year veteran of the health care industry, will speak on “Obamacare and what we can do about it.”

Find out more »


Rep. Rob Woodall: Telephone Town Hall

January 16, 2014 from 7:30 PM – 8:00 PM

Congressman Rob Woodall Telephone Town Hall Please join me for a Telephone Town Hall Meeting on January 16th. Dail-in: 877-229-8493 Password: 17849


DeKalb County GOP: Breakfast – Spotlight DeKalb Judicial System

January 18, 2014 from 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM
The Golden Corral, 2136 Lawrenceville Hwy Decatur, GA 30033

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for January 23, 2013 – The “Dixie Chicken Edition”

Gwinnett29761

29761 (male, top), 29762 (male, second), and 29763 (female, third) are white Lab mix puppies who are available for adoption beginning Friday from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

It’s a crisis situation at many animal shelters across the state as new dogs, puppies, cats and kittens are brought it. If you’ve been considering adopting or fostering, today is the day.

Gwinnett29762

Gwinnett29763

Gwinnett2965529655 is a black, middle-aged Lab mix. Just old enough to start mellowing, but with his best years ahead, if someone will rescue or foster him. He’s available today from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

MurraySixPuppies

 

The six puppies above were found outside, alone, in the freezing cold this week. They are at the Murray County Animal Shelter and need immediate foster or rescue, or they will be euthanized on Friday in the pre-dawn hours.

MurrayThreeBoxerPuppiesThese three boxer-mix puppies are bouncy fun, and are also in need of immediate foster or rescue from Murray County Animal Shelter.

Shane Wilson lost a leg in a motorcycle crash five years ago, and more recently, he lost his service dog, Lucy, when she jumped out of the bed of his pickup truck. Lesson one: dogs don’t belong in pickup truck beds when underway. Some folks found her roadside near a Cracker Barrel and returned her. Lesson two: always keep dog treats handy.

The friends were getting breakfast at the Cracker Barrel in Commerce when they saw Lucy. They walked down the exit ramp to get to her.

“We pulled out the treats and she just let me put the leash around her neck,” Davis said.

When Scoggins called him to say that she found Lucy, he was leery because he has had so many false hopes over the past six days.

Wilson told Scoggins to hold a dog treat up and say “Lucy, speak.” She did and Lucy barked. “I heard her bark and I said I’m on the way and I kind of hung up on her,” Wilson said.

“He was so happy, he was hysterical,” Davis said. “He immediately knew and said ‘stay right there, I’m coming’.”

The Exchange Club of Albany will hold its first AKC Southern Heritage Hunt & Show, which is open to all coonhounds and their owners, after a national coonhound event held in Albany for twenty-five years, was moved to Mississippi.

Both the dog show and hunt are “world qualifying,” AKC officials state, with winners cleared to move forward to the World Hunt Championship or 2013 World Show.

While secondary to the main attractions, there will be an aspect to the show, Brown said, that was not included for the UKC events: Malaysian Semara chickens. According to Brown, the birds are small — less than 19 ounces — colorful and they “kind of strut” when they walk.

Here’s your morning music treat.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The Special Election runoff in Senate District 11 in the lower-left hand corner of Georgia is taking a turn for the nasty. Jim Galloway notes that abortion has become an issue in the contest:

Over the long weekend, Georgia Right to Life dipped into the race with an email that included this:

“Dr. Dean Burke has not been endorsed by the Georgia Right to Life PAC or the National Right to Life Committee PAC. The NRLC PAC does not make state endorsements and its state affiliate – GRTL PAC – has only endorsed Mr. Keown. Any claims to the contrary are false.”

Political consultant Mark Rountree, working for Burke, says there’s no substantive difference between the two candidates on the issue of abortion. Local conversation, he says, has focused more on the $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers. Burke has pledged support for that limit, Rountree said, while Keown has not.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the internet, anonymous cowards are suggesting that Burke is an abortionist and appear willing to lie to make the hit stick. It now appears to be the case that in Georgia Republican politics, an OB/GYN will always be labeled an abortionist whether it’s true or not. Just ask Dr. Carla Roberts.

Republican Scot Turner, who came in first with more than 48% of votes cast in the Special Election for House District 21, met political consultant Brian Laurens in a debate, and Turner claims victory.

“I feel confident that the voters in HD 21 saw a clear difference between the two candidates for this race tonight. As candidates, we have a very important obligation to present our values, understanding, and plans to fix what is broken in state government. I provided a message to the voters assembled with the clear choice to reform our ethics laws, implement economically-friendly tax reforms, and return the legislature to the citizens of Georgia with term limits. Those who participated in this public debate responded with overwhelming support, and I’m humbled by those responses.

“The serious issues facing our state and county all revolve around a cornerstone issue: fixing our broken government. On the one hand, my opponent gave his view of government, which maintains the status quo. I gave voters a vision for the future; a future where government serves the people and not special interests.”

Incidentally, today is Scot Turner’s birthday. You can wish him a happy one by donating online to his campaign, as long as you are a Georgia resident or business and not a lobbyist or PAC.

Another way of wishing him a happy birthday, if you live in House District 21, is to go vote early today in the February 5th runoff. As of yesterday morning, only 28 early votes had been cast.

“It’s extremely slow,” [Election Supervisor Janet] Munda added. “It looks like we may hit five percent this time.”

Munda was referring to the projection she originally predicted for the Jan. 8 special election for both the House and the Georgia Senate District 21 seats. The county ended up seeing a 10 percent turnout for that election.

Voters in the run-off will choose between Republican candidates Scot Turner and Brian Laurens, who came in first and second respectively in the January special election for the house seat.

Early voting started last Wednesday and will continue Monday through Friday through Feb. 1.

Voters who reside in the district, which encompasses Holly Springs, portions of BridgeMill, south Canton and parts of southeast Cherokee, can cast ballots between 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Albert L. Stone Elections Building at 400 East Main Street in Canton.

No voting will be held on Monday Feb. 4, and voters in the district will cast their ballots at 11 precincts in the district on Feb. 5.

The Bainbridge City Council seat vacated by Dean Burke in order to run for Senate District 11 in the Special Election Runoff on February 5th will remain vacant until November 5th, when it is filled along with two other council seats and the office of Mayor in the Bainbridge general election.

Former State Rep. Sean Jerguson led in campaign contributions in his campaign for Georgia Senate District 21, which opponent Brandon Beach won.

Governor Nathan Deal presented his budget to the Joint Budget Hearing yesterday.

Three percent cuts across the board, and slightly more funding for the state pre-K program, the HOPE scholarship, and juvenile justice reform.

He also continued his push to renew a hospital tax aimed at shoring up the state Medicaid program.

“I think it is critical,” said Deal. “We cannot afford to have a $700 million hole in our Medicaid budget,” said Deal.

Otherwise, the governor’s budget projects 4.8 percent revenue growth in 2014. That’s compared to the 3.9 growth seen this year.

If the revenue projection holds true, Georgia in 2014 would be back to where it was at its 2007 peak, before the recession.

House Appropriations Chair Terry England said the numbers are reason for cautious optimism, but warned the state isn’t out of the woods yet.

“The problem with that is we’re a larger state than we were in 2007 so there’s more people needing more services and resources, so even though you have that growth, the demand is still greater than it was in 2007.”

Accordingly, the 2014 budget includes increased funding for education and healthcare, but most would be used to simply keep up with population growth.

Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Hill said ultimately the final budget won’t veer too far from the governor’s recommendations.

“In years where you’re spending a lot of new money, there might be more needs and more wants than there are dollars, but we have such a lean budget to begin with, I don’t know what we’d have to fight over.”

Here’s the TL;DR version:

“We have reduced per capita spending of state dollars for our citizens,” [Deal] said. “Using 2012 dollars, we are spending money at a rate of 17 percent less than we did a decade ago. And we now have 9,000 fewer state employees than we did five years ago.”

The Georgia State Fiscal Economist also presented predictions.

Georgia’s economy should see slow but steady growth over the next few years as the job and housing markets continue to improve, the state’s main economist told lawmakers Tuesday.

Heaghney said that tax collections — an indication of the state of the economy — will be up 3.9 percent the rest of fiscal 2013, which ends June 30. The economy will pick up during the second half of the year and revenue should increase 4.9 percent next fiscal year, allowing the state to add about $550 million in spending, he said.

Heaghney told legislators that the state’s job growth is outpacing the national growth rate, and that “housing appears to have turned the corner, both nationally and in Georgia.”

Georgia is seeing an increase in information technology, business services, manufacturing and transportation jobs.

“We’d expect growth to pick up in the middle of 2013 and then accelerate the rest of the year,” he said. “In 2014, we should see much more rapid growth than we’ve seen prior to this year.”

Higher taxes, a sluggish global economy and the federal debt crisis will continue to weigh on the economy, he said, dampening consumer spending and adding uncertainty to the equation.

“This all creates an environment where there is still a lot of economic uncertainty,” Heaghney said. “We try to plan for that, but there are a lot of different ways the economy could move.

Part of the $19.8 billion dollar budget will be $4.3 million for the State Archives.

Supporters are pushing for an additional $1.5 million to expand public access to the state’s important and historical records dating to at least 1733, saying the additional money would reopen the archives from two to five days a week.

Gov. Deal’s budget will also allocate funds to implement criminal justice reforms from the last Session, and possible changes to juvenile justice this year.

He’s asking for $11 million for so-called accountability courts that offer an alternative for drug abusers, the mentally ill and others.

He also wants $4 million for a regional detention center for young offenders and a new youth development campus.

Today’s budget hearings will include the Departments of Correction, Juvenile Justice, Transportation, Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Labor and Economic Development. The agenda for the Joint Budget Hearings is available by clicking here. This link should have live video of the Hearings later today.

Retailers in the three regions that approved the T-SPLOST should start collecting the extra penny sales tax.

A local clothing boutique visited Friday by NBC 26 is still ringing up its merchandise the old fashioned way.

“We write up all the tickets by hand and then we add up the totals and the tax with a calculator,” Alex, a sales associate told NBC 26. She said the store is still charging seven percent sales tax.

“I didn’t know about it until you came in,” another associate said. “I didn’t know it was in effect starting January first. So, I haven’t started using it yet.”

We asked the Georgia Department of Revenue how it informed retailers in regions where the T-SPLOST passed.

“In December, we emailed an informational bulletin concerning T-SPLOST, concerning the TSPLOST going into effect to all businesses that e-file as well as other businesses who have signed up for that specific mailing list,” said Jud Seymour, communications director for the Georgia Department of Revenue.

Seymour said if stores missed the instructional email, they could’ve looked up the information online on the Georgia Department of Revenue’s website.

On December 27, 2012, my oath of office was administered by our Probate Judge (Keith Wood), with the final sentence stating, “. . . and that I will support the Constitution of the United States and of this State, so help me God.”

Therefore, I will fully exercise the power of the Office of Sheriff to protect and defend the Constitutional rights of the citizens of Cherokee County. My position is best stated by fellow Sheriff Tim Muller of Linn County, Oregon in his letter to the President. “We are Americans. We must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals, no matter how heinous the crimes, to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws.”

Along with Sheriff Muller, other sheriffs throughout the country (including Georgia) and I, will not enforce any laws or regulations that negate the constitutional rights of the citizens of Cherokee County.

Nor shall those laws and regulations be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Cherokee County, Georgia.

Commissioner Allen insinuated that some school board members may have benefited personally from deals with outside companies.“The investigation should examine any companies or firms […] doing any business with the BOE [Board of Education] where funds might have been used to directly or indirectly unlawfully benefit certain members of the BOE,” Allen read from prepared remarks.He declined to offer any evidence that would lead federal prosecutors to investigate such a question.“These allegations,” Allen said without specifying or attributing any allegations directly, “must be investigated immediately by a federal authority, as the facts show a possible misuse of federal funds, not to mention state and local money as well.”

The Marietta Daily Journal profiles Jennifer Rippner of Acworth, a member of the new State Charter School Commission.

Georgia Power’s evacuation plan for people living near Plant Vogtle was reviewed by federal regulators.

A study has found that Plant Vogtle’s emergency evacuation plan for people within 10 miles of the nuclear site is adequate. But the study says traffic control points and better highway infrastructure would improve it.

The updated analysis was filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and was posted on the agency’s website last week.

Depending on the weather, time of day and other factors, Southern Nuclear’s consultants’ models found evacuations could take between 90 and 205 minutes.

At the Cobb County Commission meeting last night, a citizen was led out in handcuffs because he preferred to speak anonymously about backyard chickens.

During the first of two public hearings on a proposal to allow chickens on property under 2 acres in size, speakers on both sides of the issue provided emotional appeals to the board.

Banks Wise, 25, of Mableton, said he had planned to attend the board meeting just to listen to what others had to say about various code proposals, including the one on chickens.

But then he stepped up to the lectern to address the commissioners during the public comment period, and board chairman Tim Lee asked him to recite his name.

Wise declined. Lee asked several more times for him to give his name before the police officers escorted him out of the board room, handcuffed him and took him to a lobby elevator.

“The gentlemen was not following the rules of the commission,” Lee said. “I asked him multiple times. He did not, so the officers removed him.”

Wise said two things prompted him to speak to commissioners. One was a comment by a previous public speaker opposed to a code change for chickens. That speaker, Ron Sifen of Vinings, argued that homeowners had certain expectations with the zoning laws in place when they bought their homes. To allow chickens in their neighborhood was, therefore, wrong.

Wise said he wanted to argue that just because a law is on the books, it doesn’t make it constitutional.

“I’m saying that being able to have a chicken was always right. There was just at some point a very bad law,” Wise said.

Another point that bothered him was that Lee demanded that each speaker give his or her name.

Anonymous political speech is a revered tradition among those of us who love America; perhaps Mr. Lee should take a remedial class in the First Amendment.

Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee has also raised the issue that requiring businesses to use the IMAGE immigration verification program may be too unwieldy.

A documentary on urban chicken keepers, called “Mad City Chickens” will be shown in Rome, Georgia, at the Rome Area History Museum at 305 Broad Street on Saturday at 4, 7 and 9 PM.

McHaggee said the film is relevant locally, with the Rome City Commission currently wrestling with the issue of allowing chickens inside the city limits.

“We hope that this film will illustrate some of the issues our city has been discussing,” the couple said in a joint press release. “Furthermore, we hope that this film brings people together for a fun evening of entertainment and camaraderie.”

A supporter of small families owning livestock, McHaggee said she usually gets eggs from Morning Glory Farm in Cedartown and is concerned with the state of some of the breeds of chicken that need space to thrive.

“That’s part of the reason I feel so strongly about this,” she said. “There are some of the American Heritage breeds that are in trouble of becoming extinct.”

Senator Josh McKoon discusses Senate Resolution 6

In addition to other legislation he’s introduced, Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) has offered Senate Resolution 6, which would set up a statewide referendum to amend the Georgia Constitution and allow the Attorney General to empanel grand juries with statewide jurisdiction to hear allegations of official misconduct.

Here’s the jurisdiction:

(e) The subject matter jurisdiction of state-wide grand juries shall extend to the  investigation and indictment of persons and other legal entities for any crime involving corruption in the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the state, any political subdivision or municipality of the state, or any authority or instrumentality of the state, a political subdivision, or municipality; fraud by a vendor or recipient of goods or service for which funding has been provided by the Department of Community Health; any violation of the election laws of this state; violation of the oath of a public officer; bribery; false statements, representations, or writings concerning matters within the jurisdiction of state and local governments; conspiracy to defraud the state or any political subdivision or municipality thereof; and any other criminal activity for which the Governor has directed the Attorney General to petition the Supreme Court for the empaneling of a state-wide grand jury.

I believe this is important in order to provide a backup in cases in which local prosecutors are unable or unwilling to prosecute alleged official misconduct.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 29, 2012

This sweet brown dog is a mother at ten months of age, and she and her puppies are destined to be euthanized tomorrow morning if no one steps up to adopt or foster. They are available for adoption immediately and transportation can be arranged. These dogs can be adopted or fostered individually and any not saved by 2 AM Friday will be euthanized.

This black lab mix male is about ten months old and has the beginning of mange, but it’s easily treated. Somebody offered to rescue him but has backed out. He must be rescued before 2 AM.

There are a half-dozen other dogs in dire need before Thursday. Transportation for any of these dogs to the Atlanta area is available for free and we have sponsors who are willing to pay the adoption fee for any of these dogs. Email me if you’re interested in adopting and have any questions.

To save one of these souls, here is the contact information:

Lisa Hester, volunteer
[email protected]
[email protected]

Megan706-260-5251 (daytime Tu,Th,F)(TEXT or call)
706-695-8003
[email protected]

Pauline Davis
[email protected]
706-463-2194, TEXT messages only

If you are not able to save a dog at this time, you also may make a donation on behalf of one of the dogs or for a “hard to place” dog. To make a donation, simply go to www.paypal.com, click on the “send money” tab on the home page and enter the shelter acct, [email protected]. In the subject line, indicate this is a donation for the (brief descrip and/or ID # of animal or “hard to place dog”). IMPORTANT: Be sure to designate the payment as a “gift” or PayPal will take part of it.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The State Elections Board dismissed seven charges against the Fulton County Board of Elections in which voters did not receive mail-in ballots they requested. The SEB sent official reprimands and instructions for remedial actions on two charges.

“It’s good to hear these cases, because it’s building up for what’s to come,” [Secretary of State Brian] Kemp said after the meeting, referring to more than 100 complaints from this year’s presidential election, such as poll workers wrongly steering some voters to provisional ballots and denying those ballots to others.

The winning PowerBall numbers drawn yesterday were 5, 16, 22, 23, 29 and Powerball of 6. Even if the State of Georgia won the $550 million top prize, we still probably wouldn’t be able to afford an extra $2.5 billion over the next ten years in order to extend benefits to more Georgians.

“We are having a difficult time meeting our obligations for Medicaid as it is,” said [Governor Nathan] Deal. “I do not foresee a situation in which the state would have another 2, 3, or 4 billion dollars over the next ten years to dedicate to that purpose.”

Medicaid is the joint federal-state health program for the poor. The federal government has promised to cover the full cost of the expansion for the first three years, and about 90 percent thereafter.

Health policy analyst Tim Sweeney of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute said the expansion is a major opportunity for the state.

“If you look at in context, it’s about a one or two percent increase in total state spending which is definitely affordable in the long run considering the dramatic benefits we get from it,” said Sweeney.

How does the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute fail to understand that there is no such thing as “free money from the federal government”?

Senator Jack Murphy has endorsed allowing state voters to decide whether to allow Pari-mutuel betting on horse races. I personally oppose it despite the fact that I love horses and I love racing in almost any form. The problem is the disjunction between the romantic notion of horse-racing as a high-class sport undertaken in resort-like conditions.

Foxfield aside, commercial horse racing facilities become squalid and filled with desperate people quickly. They also create a large number of people who are dependent upon commercial gambling for their livelihood, which makes the next step into casino gambling all but inevitable, because most racetracks are not commercially-viable without some form of on-premises casino or electronic gaming machines.

State Representative-elect Michael Caldwell (R) is being lauded for returning excess campaign contributions on a pro rata basis.

Caldwell told the Tribune Wednesday he returned 13.8 percent of each donor’s contributions, an amount corresponding with his leftover funds after winning the House seat against Democrat Lillian Burnaman in November’s general election.

“We wrote the checks on Nov. 7, the day after the election ended, and they were mailed last week,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell’s website shows a balance of $444, money contributors told him to keep for his next campaign after he mailed out the checks.

“I’m not going to make that decision for them. That has to be up to them,” Caldwell said.

During his campaign, Caldwell did not accept money from lobbyists or out-of-state donors and recorded all monetary and in-kind contributions.

“The state requires that you disclose contributions of more than $100, but we did every penny. I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Good news in education: more students are passing the writing test that is required for high school graduation.

93% of students passed the exam this year, up from 91% last year. State education officials started phasing out the high school graduation test last year. But they kept the writing test.

A higher percentage of African-American and Latino students passed the test this year, narrowing the achievement gap with white students. Cardoza says that’s significant.

“Closing that gap is very important because all students are going to go on from high school into either a career or on to college,” [Dept. of Ed. Spokesperson Matt] Cardoza says, “So, we have to make sure that all of those students are at that proficiency level.”

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia released a study showing that 100,000 Georgians depend on MARTA to get to work, a threefold increase over the past five years.

“If MARTA didn’t exist, those 100,000 jobs and the 80,000 they support would likely go away,” said Wes Clarke, one of the UGA researchers who prepared the study onMARTA’s economic role. “It shows the magnitude of the impact of being able to get people to jobs by way of a transit system.”

The availability of public transit has played a key role in attracting the 123, 515 jobs around the Perimeter Center in DeKalb County, said Yvonne Williams, president of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts. The CIDs have four rail stations in the area serving medical centers, Perimeter Mall and office parks.

“Most of the major corporations that are here … have chosen the perimeter market for the assets of transit,” she said. “It draws employees from across the region and your high-profile corporations care about that employee footprint. We see it as a major competitive factor.”

I myself am a frequent MARTA rider, especially during the legislative session when it’s simply quicker many mornings than driving 4 miles through Atlanta traffic. Pro-tip for MARTA management: I’d probably spend three to five dollars a day on fancy coffee in the station if you sold it to me. And you could probably extract a couple extra bucks a week by opening pay toilets at the half-way point.

On Tuesday, some Paulding, Douglas and Carroll County voters will go to the polls to vote in the runoff in Senate District 30 between Bill Hembree and Mike Dugan. There will also be a special election between the winner *cough*Hembree*cough*  and a Librarian Libertarian named James Camp on January 8, 2013.

Talk about a 2014 challenge to United States Senator Saxby Chambliss have picked up.

A combination of factors has encouraged some Republicans to openly weigh a challenge. Chambliss has long faced criticism from tea party activists and other hardcore conservatives who dislike his role on the bipartisan Gang of Six, which backed a plan to reduce deficits by changing entitlement programs, make spending cuts and raising tax revenue.

“I don’t think it’s the taxes,” said Debbie Dooley, a Chambliss critic and co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party. “It’s based on that people want a fighter, they don’t want someone to acquiesce to the left.”

Chambliss’ longtime political consultant, Tom Perdue, said several members of Congress have said in the last few months that they would run for Chambliss’ seat if he did not seek re-election. And others indicated they might challenge the incumbent in a primary. Still others, Perdue said, are floating their names as a way of raising campaign cash and don’t intend to mount a real challenge.

Perdue faulted those who criticize Chambliss for working with Democrats.

“Now all of the sudden you’ve got some people, which is certainly their right — they do not think he should be working with Democrats,” Perdue said. “Well, it’s kind of hard to get anything done in Congress if both parties don’t work together.”

Congressman Dr. Tom Price diagnosed talk of him challenging Chambliss as premature speculation.

The Savannah Chamber of Commerce unveiled its 2013 legislative agenda at an “Eggs and Issues” breakfast yesterday.

Securing harbor deepening funds again topped the list.

But other topics mentioned at the Savannah Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs and Issues breakfast also would require state dollars.

Tybee Island State Representative Ben Watson wants more sand on Tybee beach.

“Tybee beach re-nourishment not only affects the tourism in the Savannah beaches or on Tybee Island,” Watson says. “But it also affects the City of Savannah, our region here and the whole state of Georgia.”

Chamber Chairman Bill Shira said he’d like lawmakers to extend a tax break benefiting jet-maker Gulfstream.

“What this tax exemption does is allow Gulfstream to be more competetive,” Shira says. “What this legislative agenda is meant to do is to extend these benefits for Gulfstream into the future so that we can remain competitive.”

Speaking of Savannah, the city is ranked as the 38th fastest-growing major metropolitan area in the nation.

Over the next five years, Savannah’s population is projected to grow 5 percent, 6,700 new households in total, at an annual rate of 1 percent.

That comes as no surprise to Bill Hubbard, president and CEO of the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce. In fact, he can sum up the area’s growing popularity in two words: baby boomers.

“Savannah’s ability to attract retirees is the fundamental piece that has driven our growth. Most baby boomers have weathered the recession with at least some of their wealth intact and, as they look to retirement, they are realizing that our area is a great place to live,” he said.

“Nearly 80 percent of the U.S. population lives within an hour of the coastline, and this is the most affordable coastline between Myrtle Beach and Jacksonville,” he said, adding that it doesn’t hurt that Savannah is a tourist magnet.

Kia Motors will invest more than $1 billion dollars in its West Point, Georgia operations.

A memorandum of understanding spells out a plan for Kia Motors Manufacturing America to invest $1.6 billion over the next 16 years for expanding its model offerings, including additional tools, equipment and possible building expansions. Kia is asking the Troup County Development Authority to issue $1 billion in bonds and the West Point Development Authority to issue $600 million in bonds for the improvements, and would pay the county development authority $400,000 in compensation and West Point Development Authority up to $650,000.

Governor Nathan Deal lauded the investment:

“Kia has an exceptional track record of growth in our state,” said Deal. “The wave of economic impact created by Kia’s presence in Georgia goes far beyond the 10,000-plus jobs the company and its suppliers have created and will underpin the region’s economy for generations to come. Kia’s continued commitment to our state moves us closer to making Georgia the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business.”

Being from Gwinnett County, I always understood that developers were supposed to send flowers and wine-and-dine government officials, but the Fulton County Development Authority thinks it works the other way. Take a minute to watch the video from Fox5Atlanta about $1100 monthly lunches and absorb the fact that it’s a Republican chairman and mouthpiece telling you that it never occurred to them to ask the price of the free government-provided lobster bisque that magically appeared at their monthly meetings.

More than two-thirds of the applications for disadvantaged business status under a Georgia DOT program included incorrect calculations, according to an audit of the program.

The findings of the audit raise questions about the disadvantaged business certification process GDOT had been using, but it’s not clear how many of the applicants reviewed went on to win contracts.

The “disadvantaged business enterprise” certifications give firms special consideration, since agencies set goals to award a certain percentage of contracts to disadvantaged firms.

The performance review completed earlier this year found GDOT’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity did not accurately calculate business owners’ personal net worth in 27 of the 40 applications reviewed for the audit. The errors included omissions of ownership interest in other companies or the fair market value of stocks and bonds, according to the audit. In some cases, more information would be needed to make a determination.

What’s more, GDOT increased its cap on personal net worth from $750,000 to $1.32 million for airport concessions disadvantaged business enterprise certifications, even before the federal government issued its final rule making the change. The federal change has since been finalized.

The headline of the week comes from the Marietta Daily Journal for this gem: “Speeders, chickens get little love from council members”.

MARIETTA — Speeders and chickens got little support during the Marietta City Council’s committee meetings Monday.

The public safety committee discussed conducting a “Slow Down Marietta Week” after chairman Councilman Anthony Coleman called one street “the Kennestone 500.”

“We’ve been doing some ticketing,” Coleman said about 60 tickets issued in a recent three-day period. “I don’t think that’s (the police department’s) first option, to go back to writing tickets, but it does get people’s attention. I want a proactive approach.”

Coleman said speeders create a secondary public safety problem.

“People are not following the limit and they’re tailgating drivers going the speed limit. It causes a lot of tension,” he said.

Backyard chickens failed to garner support from the judicial and legislative committee, chaired by Councilman Phil Goldstein.

Backyard chicken advocate Kristen Picken, a Marietta resident, spoke to the Council as she did at its Oct. 10 regular meeting.

“I work with a group that wants to get the law changed in the city of Marietta and the county,” she said about the Backyard Chickens Alliance of Cobb County.To

Ethics Commission declines to make George Anderson pay for frivolous complaints

From the Rome News-Tribune:

Rome’s George Anderson, who accused Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal of ethical wrongdoing, will not have to pay the governor’s attorney fees over three complaints that were dismissed.

The Government Transparency Commission voted 3-1 on Friday against making Anderson pay a portion of the legal fees that Deal spent to address complaints from Anderson dealing with Deal’s daughter-in-law, appointees and others.

Anderson said he was being asked to pay $10,387.50.

“I’m going home relieved,” Anderson said in a phone interview with the Rome News-Tribune. “I’m on cloud nine. I’ve been very stressed about (it). I’ve been working for 10 months at the Subway at night and substitute teaching, but I didn’t need to face trying to come up with money to pay Gov. Nathan Deal.”

Deal attorney Randy Evans said Anderson’s complaints were meritless and slanderous.

Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission will be offline

According to their website, the Commission formerly known as the State Ethics Commission will take its reporting system offline from Midnight on December 21 through 6 AM on December 26, 2012 for upgrades.

The Commission will also close its office early on Wednesday, November 21 and remain closed on Nov. 22-23d for the holiday.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 29, 2012

This young lab mix puppy is about 12 weeks old and the volunteers at Murray County Animal Shelter says he’s sweet, friendly, gets along with other dogs and loves people. He needs to be rescued ASAP or he will be euthanized on Friday morning. Transportation to Atlanta is available.

Angels Among Us Rescue has foster care lined up for these Golden mix puppies, and is trying to raise $1000 for their vetting to ensure they can save them. Please consider making a donation to Angels Among Us Rescue today and put “GaPundit – Golden Puppies” in the online donation form.

Flash here (28341) is a young, friendly male Basset Hound who is available for adoption today from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

28301 is an adult male lemon Beagle mix who is available for adoption today from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

Villa Rica veterinarian Stuart “Doc Win” Burnett  is doing his part to reduce euthanasia of dogs and cats.

His passion for animals and his willingness to serve the community has led to the formation of two new endeavors meant to keep dogs and cats from being put to sleep and providing affordable veterinarian services for those who can’t afford it.

The American Veterinary Animal Welfare Foundation was launched last year as a way to rescue animals in local shelters that would otherwise be euthanized, and to help offset some of the free veterinary care he and his staff often provide.

“We are rescuing dogs off death row at the shelters,” said Deborah York, president of the Animal Welfare Foundation. “We’re bringing them in, vetting them and finding them homes.”

The non-profit foundation relies entirely on donations. Since receiving its rescue license in May, nearly 100 pets have been rescued by the foundation. Though the foundation rescues animals it is not a drop-off location for people who simply don’t want their animals.

Once a month, the foundation has a booth at PetSmart in Douglasville where it offers animals for adoption, and all the animals are on display at Petfinder.com. The cost of adoption is $150 for males and $200 for females, which covers an animal being fully vetted, microchipped and spayed/neutered.

Besides donated funds, the foundation has set up a thrift store at its previous clinic building across from its current location on Thomas Dorsey Drive — once a month items are sold and the money goes to pet rescue. Items to be sold can be donated by contacting Atlanta West Veterinary Hospital.

Burnett and his staff provide about 15 to 20 hours a week of what they refer to as “community service,” which is veterinary care for those who can’t afford to pay. Donations to the foundation also will go toward helping fund some of these pro bono services.

“We’re trying to serve the community and make a living too,” Burnett said.

Burnett and fellow veterinarian Steve Hathcock will launch the Bay Springs Clinic on Nov. 13, which will provide affordable spay/neuter procedures and other smaller veterinary services. The clinic will be located behind Vaughn Tile on Highway 61 North.

Anyone seeking more information about the clinic or wanting to donate to the foundation can contact Atlanta West at 770-459-2253, email [email protected] or visit the website at www.americanveterinarywelfarefoundation.com.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Over the weekend, Early and Advance voting surpassed the one million mark, with 99,979 votes being cast according to the latest absentee voter file from the Secretary of State’s office. Of the early/advance voters on Saturday for whom the SOS reported a “Last Party Primary,” 54% had last voted in a Republican Primary and 46% in a Democratic Primary.

WSB reported Friday that Gwinnett County had its longest waits of the election.

Lines were up to two-and-a-half hours long between 8:30am and noon at the main elections office in Lawrenceville. Continue reading

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 24, 2012

One of these little seven-week old pups found a home yesterday with a GaPundit.com reader and I couldn’t be happier. Another reader’s family stepped up and volunteered to foster the other two if enough money can be raised through a rescue organization to pay for their vetting, which will cost $400. If everyone who has written me about how much they enjoy seeing the adoptable dogs or asking how they can help will give $50, $20, or even $5 today, we can save the remaining puppies. They must be saved by Thursday night or they’ll be euthanized on Friday before dawn. Please click here and go to Angels Among Us Rescue’s webpage and donate today with a credit or debit card or PayPal account. When making your donation, please put “GaPundit – Murray County Puppies” in the purpose field.

This boxer puppy will qualify for the “Black Friday Sale” discounted $30 adoption fee on Friday at Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. She’s a friendly little puppy and has five brothers and sisters in the shelter with her, who were found stray and are available for adoption today.

Finally, we bring you one of our favorite kind of dog, a basset hound “low rider” mix. Meet Binkie, a Pit Bull-Basset Hound mix.

Binkie is a spayed female, approximately 2 years old and just over 26 pounds of awesome. She is available for adoption tomorrow from Walton County Animal Services.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Senator Vincent Fort doesn’t want voters to be armed in exchange for voting and has filed a complaint with the Secretary of State’s office alleging that a Cobb business offering a chance to win a Browning rifle or Glock violates Georgia law that prohibits giving people something of value for voting.

Fort says the promotion violates state law prohibiting anyone from offering money or gifts in exchange for voting or registering to vote.

“I sent a letter to the secretary of state this morning, asking him to look into it and put a stop to the raffle,” Fort said. “These billboards are prominently positioned all over the metro area, and I’m surprised the secretary of state didn’t intervene earlier.”

Four years ago, that office put a quick stop to shops offering free coffee and doughnuts to those showing proof that they voted, he said.

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