Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 22, 2014

If it has somehow escaped your attention, today is election day in Georgia. If you have questions about your voter registration or where to vote, sign in to the Secretary of State’s My Voter Page for personalized information.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also has a primer on Primary Runoff Elections, including this valuable information:

WHAT TO BRING

Georgia requires voters to show photo identification when they vote in person. Approved forms of identification include a Georgia driver’s license, even if it’s expired; a state-issued voter identification card; a valid U.S. passport; and a valid U.S. military photo ID.

BALLOTS

As a voter, you must stick with the party ballot you choose for the main primary (in other words, you can’t cast a Democratic ballot in the main primary and then vote in a Republican runoff). However, if you did not vote in the primary or if you originally picked a nonpartisan ballot, you may still vote in the runoff and pick the party ballot of your choice.

PROBLEMS

If you see or experience problems, first contact your local elections office. If local officials can’t help, the secretary of state’s office has an online complaint form via the “elections” tab at www.sos.ga.gov. The office’s voter fraud hot line is 877-725-9797.

General William Tecumseh Sherman gained the upper hand in the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 2014. Estimated casualties were 12,140 (3,641 Union, 8,499 Confederate). In some ways this makes today a fitting day to hold an election.

On July 22, 1975, the United States House of Representatives voted to restore U.S. Citizenship to General Robert E. Lee posthumously.

Though President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation of amnesty and pardon to the Southern rebels in 1865, it required Lee to apply separately. On Oct. 2, 1865, the same day that Lee was inaugurated as president of Washington College in Lexington, Va., he signed the required amnesty oath and filed an application through Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.

Nonetheless, neither was Lee pardoned, nor was his citizenship restored. After receiving it, Secretary of State William Seward gave Lee’s application to a friend as a souvenir. Meanwhile, State Department officials, apparently with Seward’s approval, pigeonholed the oath.

In 1970, an archivist, examining State Department records at the National Archives, found Lee’s lost oath. That discovery helped set in motion a five-year congressional effort to restore citizenship to the general, who had died stateless in 1870.

President Gerald Ford signed the congressional resolution on July 24, 1975, correcting what he said was a 110-year oversight. The signing ceremony took place at Arlington House in Virginia, the former Lee family home. Several Lee descendants, including Robert E. Lee V, his great-great-grandson, attended.

Five Things to Watch for today

Today appears to be the day that Georgia journalists caught up to SEO best practices. Daniel Malloy and Greg Bluestein write in the AJC Political Insider blog, “Five things to Watch in the U.S. Senate Race.” Here’s an excerpt and the entire article is worth reading.

1. Overall turnout: Will the rain and the negativity of the race depress turnout that was already dismal in the May primary? We also encountered plenty of folks who still were not used to a July runoff, so voter confusion is at play too. If turnout is lower than 10 percent, the likely beneficiary is Kingston — who has the Republican clubs and county sheriffs and small-town mayors working their networks on his behalf.

2. Who’s making inroads in metro Atlanta? Former Secretary of State Karen Handel of Roswell and Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta endorsed Kingston and have been hitting the trail for him. If Handel, in particular, can swing her metro Atlanta base Kingston’s way it could prove decisive.

3. Can Kingston run up the score in the southeast again? Kingston won a whopping 75 percent of the vote in his congressional district in the primary and got strong turnout there. A runoff in the 1st  District should help him, but early voting there was down compared with the weeks before the primary.

Ray Henry and Russ Bynum of the Associated Press also wrote their own list of “5 Things To Know About Georgia’s Runoff Election”.

U.S. SENATE RACE GETS TOP BILLING

The retirement of U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss set off a scramble to win the Republican nomination for his seat. Senate seats are among the most coveted jobs in politics since senators enjoy the national prominence that comes with setting federal policy and face re-election less frequently than governors or members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

THREE GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL SEATS ON RUNOFF BALLOTS

Three Georgia congressmen — Kingston, Paul Broun of Athens and Phil Gingrey of Marietta — all vacated their House seats to run for a promotion to the Senate. Republican primaries for each open seat were so crowded that the GOP nominations must be settled by the top two finishers in the Tuesday runoff.

OPEN RACE FOR GEORGIA’S STATE SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT

In another statewide race, voters must pick Republican and Democratic nominees for state school superintendent.

Republican Michael Buck, chief academic officer for the state Department of Education, and Richard Woods, a longtime educator in Irwin County, are running in the Republican runoff, while state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan and former Decatur School Board Chairwoman Valarie Wilson are competing in the Democratic contest.

Going to vote shortly

I had dinner unexpectedly with a fellow Republican political strategist and his wife the other night when I showed up at Alfredo’s alone and took a seat next to them at the bar. As we talked about today’s election, it emerged that each of us has our own rituals. Among mine is that election day is for voting first, so after I feed and walk the dogs, I’ll walk over to the local high school and cast my ballot. In a day filled with anxiety, having a ritual to start with helps, and it also gives me a gauge of what turnout looks like – this is only one data point, but all day today, political operatives will be looking for tea leaves to read. Here’s how I’ll fill out my ballot.

United States Senate – Jack Kingston – with slim policy differences between the two candidates, it comes down to picking a reason to choose one over the other, and I’m voting for Jack Kingston because I know him to be focused on serving the people of Georgia as evidenced by the overwhelming vote of confidence he received from voters in his own Congressional district. When a Congressman gets the support of nearly 75% of voters in his own district in his campaign for the senior chamber, that tells me his constituents believe they have been well-served.

We’ve also seen Kingston take several actions that garnered him criticism in his Senate campaign because he thought they were the right choices to make, rather than the politically-expedient ones.

Kingston probably could have moved the Port of Savannah project along faster if he had chosen to find a way around the GOP policy against earmarks, but he abided by that policy. His vote in favor of the Farm Bill was welcomed across South Georgia, but caused him some heartburn with ideologically-driven voters in Metro Atlanta and set him apart in the crowded Primary field.

Finally, I know Jack Kingston to be a good man and his family is perhaps the greatest testament to that. David Perdue is probably a fine individual, I just didn’t get the chance to learn whether that’s true during the course of this campaign.

Perdue has grown into a very competent politician and will be a strong contender if he chooses to run for office again.

And then, there’s this:

“Even though [Jack Kingston]‘s been a member of Congress for 20-plus years, [he] feels more accessible,” said GOP political consultant Todd Rehm. “If you’ve met a guy and he returned your phone call, or his staff helped with an issue, it’s hard to think of that person as one of those evil insiders. David Perdue might be the most warm and friendly personality … but I wouldn’t know, because he’s never acknowledged me.”

 

State School Superintendent – Richard Woods I’m casting my ballot for Richard Woods for three reasons.

First, in no particular order, is that he’s a social conservative, evidenced by his receiving the endorsement of Georgia Right to Life. If all other things were equal, that endorsement would prove dispositive.

Second, his opponent Mike Buck, aided and abetted the campaign of John Barge, whose Chief of Staff Buck serves as , in Barge’s challenge to Governor Nathan Deal on a platform indistinguishable from that of liberal Democrat Jason Carter.

Third, we’ve had four years of John Barge and don’t need four more years of the status quo.

 

DeKalb Sheriff – I don’t have a preference in this race, but I will by the time I cast my ballot. It’s probably the most important election in my area, but neither candidate has given me a reason to vote for him today. Vernon Jones has his well-known issues, but can argue that he was a competent administrator as CEO, and as remarkable as it may sound, the fact that he’s never actually been indicted sets him apart from his successor and far too many politicians in DeKalb. Jeff Mann, currently the incumbent after Tom Brown resigned to run for Congress, has not contacted me about his campaign in any form during the runoff.

How not to win at social media

Yesterday, the Georgia Republican Party launched a Twitter campaign that didn’t just fall flat, it cratered.

Join us on Twitter as we stand up for Governor Deal! Use the hashtag #WeKnowNathan and let’s put an end to the baseless attacks from the radical left.

Instead it turned into a new vector for baseless attacks from the radical left. In a nasty competitive environment like Twitter, how do you prevent this from happening? I don’t know either, but I’m going to see what I can learn about it.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for January 22, 2014

Medical Marijuana moving up

Medicinal use of marijuana is finding some supporters I would at one time (last week) have considered highly unlikely. From WSB-TV,

Channel 2 Action News has learned state lawmakers supporting medical marijuana could have a bill ready to go as early as this week that would make medical marijuana legal in Georgia.

Channel 2′s Lori Geary began reporting the issue weeks ago and talked to an unlikely co-sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Micah Gravley, a Republican from Paulding County.

He says when he was first asked about the issue he flat out refused, telling supporters of the issue he’s a conservative, Christian Republican.

Then he says the parents of 10-year-old Caden Clark reached out to him, “I have had a 180-degree change because I’ve seen how it can impact these kids and how it can impact these families who are now separated because one’s here in Georgia, the other one’s in Colorado.”

Tuesday, Gov. Nathan Deal said he’s not taking a stance on the issue but said, “I think there’s a strong case being presented by some of the families in some serious situations involving their children.”

till, the Christian Coalition remains firmly against any state law on medical marijuana.

The president of the group, Jerry [Luquire], told Geary that marijuana, in any form, is considered a Class 1 substance by the federal government, one of the most dangerous drugs. He says federal law trumps state law. He accuses the lawmakers supporting the bill of a conspiracy to break federal law.

Winston Jones at the (Carrollton) Times-Georgian spoke to their local legislators.

Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, said Monday that he’s not in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, as in Colorado, and he also is against a sweeping medical marijuana law. However, he did indicate he is open to looking at derivatives that might be medically useful.

“From what I understand, with the oil, the intoxicants have been removed,” Dugan said. “I’m willing to listen to that. I want some medical professionals to come forward and tell me what benefits it would have, and I’ll make a determination from that.”

He said states that have passed medical marijuana bills have suffered widespread abuse, and he feels Georgia doesn’t need that.

Sen. Mike Crane, R-Newnan, said so far, he’s seen only anecdotal evidence from personal stories, and he’s looking forward to hearing medical presentations.

“If the stories prove true, and we see remarkable results with certain candidates, this sounds like one more tool in the doctor’s cache of things that could relieve untold suffering for many,” Crane said. “There’s more discussions to be had, and I think we’re going to see that. It’s something I’m very concerned about, but very cautious. As we move forward, I’m going to take extreme caution on this issue.”

Rep. Randy Nix, R-LaGrange, said he wonders if there’s any other drugs that can do the same thing as the medical marijuana.

“If the answer is ‘no,’ then I’m willing to listen to the debate,” Nix said. “I would want it to be something in a pill or oil form, and legislation that would have a narrow scope of what was allowed. I won’t support legislation if it looks like people want to use it to get their foot in the door to support recreational marijuana. That’s my concern.”

Nix said if the drug works for children with seizures, maybe that’s the only thing for which it should be prescribed.

“I’m not heartless,” he said. “If that’s the only thing that will help these children, let’s figure out a way to do it, but let’s not use it as that door opener to fully legalize marijuana.”

Peachtree NORML and Georgia NORML, both pro-marijuana legalization groups, released a poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) on several ways of loosening Georgia’s marijuana laws. Here are some quotes from the release:

A new statewide poll shows that 62% of Georgia voters endorse eliminating criminal penalties for possession by adults of less than one ounce of pot, and replace it with a $100 civil fine, without the possibility of jail time. Further, more than half of all Georgia voters now support regulating the legal consumption and retail sale of marijuana for those age 21 and over.

In 2010, some 32,500 Georgians were arrested for violating marijuana laws, according to the FBI. That is the sixth highest total of any state in America.

Fifty -seven percent of voters supported legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. State
lawmakers have indicated interest in studying this legal option.

Here’s a question that will specifically interest some politicians.

Q5 If a candidate supported marijuana law reform, would that make you more or less likely to vote for that candidate in the next election, or would it not make a difference?

More likely……………29%
Less likely……………34%
Wouldn’t make a difference……………29%
Not sure…………….8%

A couple of things to note. First, if that question on reelecting a candidate who supports changing marijuana laws is accurate, it doesn’t tell the story most incumbents are likely interested in – the effect of a vote on their party’s primary voters. There are likely differences between Republicans and Democrats, and geographic differences between, say, a Metro Atlanta suburban or in-town district, and a strongly conservative rural district.

The second point I’d like to make, and one that has implications for polling beyond the issue of marijuana is that in this poll, Public Policy Polling found the partisan self-identification as follows:

Q8 If you are a Democrat, press 1. If a Republican, press 2. If you are an independent or identify with another party, press 3.
Democrat……………37%
Republican………….43%
Independent/Other……20%

I think that a 6-point lead for self-identified Republicans over Democrats is about correct. But that’s at odds with an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll that showed Democrats with a slight lead in party identification. A poll by InsiderAdvantage, where I have a part-time job sweeping floors and editing their website, put the differential at Republican +3 points.

A poll by PPP conducted in August showed Republicans +1, which I raised as an issue that caused me to question their head-to-head ballot questions that showed Michelle Nunn ahead of or tied with all of the major GOP candidates for United States Senate.

An October poll by PPP that showed Jason Carter at 40% versus Governor Deal at 44% also reflected an electorate evenly split between self-identified Democrats and Republicans - a scenario I refer to as “dreamland for Democrats.”

Part of what a pollster does, and what a discerning consumer of polling should do is to not place all your faith in any given poll, but to add the results of each poll into the mix as part of the context. And then compare that with your experiences in Georgia politics.

In 2010, competitive statewide race results ranged from Republican +9.3 to Republican +12.8, with Governor Deal beating Democratic former Governor Roy Barnes by 10 points. [In this instance I am discounting the 2010 races for U.S. Senate, SOS, Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor Commissioner, which were GOP blowouts.]

In 2012, Mitt Romney outpolled President Obama by nearly eight points and Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton beat Democrat Steve Oppenheimer by just under nine points.

So I feel safe in the following prediction: in 2014, the Republican electoral advantage in closely-contested statewide election will be in the range of Republican +6 to Republican +10. That’s after campaigning, but for now, any poll I see that doesn’t show a lead in GOP self-identification in the +3 to +6 range warrants a look at the crosstabs to see what’s going on.

Gold Dome Today

Today will be Georgia Right to Life’s “March for Life” at the Georgia State Capitol from 11:15 AM to 2 PM. Speakers will include Governor Nathan Deal, keynote speaker Pam Stenzel, and special guest speaker Dr. Robert White! Note that GRTL has directions for parking on their website too. Georgia Right to Life PAC has endorsed Meagan Biello in the runoff election for State Representative in House District 22, making her the only endorsed candidate in that race.


Legislative Calendar

Senate Rules – TBA, 450 CAP

10:00 AM Floor Session

1:00 pm
Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities Committee
Wed, January 22, 1pm – 2pm, 307 CLOB
Senate State & Local Governmental Operations Committee
Wed, January 22, 1pm – 2pm, 310 CLOB
House Appropriations
Wed, January 22, 1pm – 2pm or upon adjournment, 341 CAP
House Rules Committee
Wed, January 22, 2pm-3pm, 341 CAP

2:00 pm

Senate Health & Human Services Committee

Wed, January 22, 2pm – 3pm, 450 CAP

Senate Transportation Committee
Wed, January 22, 2pm – 3pm, MEZZ

3:00 pm

Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee
Wed, January 22, 3pm – 4pm, 307 CLOB

Kingston Collection

Since we mentioned the Limited Edition “Cotton Boll” logo t-shirt we saw from one of Jack Kingston’s past Congressional campaigns, we have been sent photos of some other Limited Edition Kingston swag. Here is the “Children of the Corn” logo.

Kingston Corn logo

And Ball One:

Kingston Baseball logoSm


Open Judicial seats in Gwinnett, Cobb

Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Michael Clark has announced that he will retire February 28, 2014 to join a law firm. As his term is not expiring, Governor Nathan Deal will appoint a successor. If history is any pattern, the leading candidates to be named are either incumbent state legislators, or lower court judges, which open up an additional seat for appointment or election.

Cobb County Superior Court Judge James Bodiford also announced he will retire at the end of his term this year. The election to replace him is likely to be held May 20, 2014.


Probation Lifted for DeKalb Public Schools

The accreditation for DeKalb County Public Schools, previously placed on probation by SACS, has been upgraded to a status of “accredited warned.”

“The threat of the loss of accreditation is no longer imminent,” said Mark Elgart, whose agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, precipitated a crisis in December 2012 that led to the governor’s intervention. SACS placed DeKalb on probation and threatened to strip accreditation altogether if the school board and superintendent failed to address management concerns.

Gov. Nathan Deal replaced six of the nine school board members, just after the old board replaced the superintendent. DeKalb’s new leadership has made remarkable progress addressing the issues, Elgart said, but he said the work is far from done and that the elections May 20 for the nonpartisan school board are a major concern.

“The election is critical,” said Elgart, who is the president and chief executive officer of SACS’ parent company AdvancED. The agency’s opinions about accreditation influence a school district’s reputation, and by extension its graduates’ chances for college admissions and scholarships. That, in turn, affects the local economy, since public education is a key factor businesses consider when choosing where to locate.

“This community needs to pay close attention to whom they elect,” Elgart said. “Politics is one of the reasons the system got itself to this point.”

The school board fiasco has already become a launching pad for one deposed member, Nancy Jester, who is now seeking the state superintendent’s job. And the upcoming school board elections, which could feature comeback bids by one or more of the ousted board members, may inject another dose of politics.

 

Nancy Jester, Republican candidate for Georgia State School Superintendent, released a statement:

I am pleased to hear the DeKalb school system’s accreditation status has been upgraded from “probation” to “warned”.

I worked diligently to shine light on the poor fiscal management of DeKalb.  Some of my work was even cited in the SACS report from 2012.

Clearly DeKalb still has a long way to go.

Academic achievement and growth in many schools is unacceptable.  DeKalb’s graduation rate, at 58.9%, is far too low.

Of the 25 high schools in DeKalb, 8 have graduation rates below 50%, while only 4 have rates above 75%.  All four of these schools are specialty or magnet schools.

I appreciate that SACS finally recognized that DeKalb needed some sort of intervention.

The entire episode exposes the structural weaknesses in our state’s accountability model.  While SACS can provide a useful and supplemental service via their third party accreditation products, Georgia must not continue to abdicate it’s role in holding districts accountable for their results and financial management.

Jester also released in the last several days a map that shows per-pupil spending and graduation rates in Georgia and neighboring states. It’s worth taking a moment to look at.

JesterGradRatesPerPupilSpendingMap copy

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for January 10, 2011

Top Stories

1. An important day in Georgia history
2. Poll: Deal leads Carter by 2-1 margin
3. Campaign announcements
4. Two events with Allen West

Announcing GaPunditPro

In the coming days, we’ll be releasing GaPunditPro, a tool for professionals and citizen-lobbyists at the Capitol that will include an electronic version of the White Book, as well as constantly updated information from both chambers and headlines from GaPundit.com.

As a preview, here’s the new State House of Representatives Committee Assignments and Chairmanships.

History

On January 10, 2011, Nathan Deal was sworn in as Governor of Georgia for his first term. The celebratory inauguration was cancelled because of snow and ice, but Deal took the oath of office before a joint session of the Georgia General Assembly. Deal became the second Republican Governor of Georgia during the modern era, taking over from Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Deal 2011 Inaugural Invite

Other Gubernatorial inaugurations

January 10, 1788 John Housetoun
January 10, 1933 Eugene Talmadge (more…)

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for January 22, 2013

Gerald Jones Volkswagen-Audi in Augusta, Georgia has partnered with L.E.A.S.H. Rescue and will become a drop-off point for donations of dog food, toys and other materials, as well as holding adoption events. In honor of the partnership, today’s dogs are both from L.E.A.S.H. rescue.

LEASH_Caine

 

Caine, above, is one of five dogs who came in together and he will be available for adoption soon after he is neutered. His brother, Abel, (below),will also need a home soon, and they are available separately or together. For more information, visit L.E.A.S.H. on Facebook or email them. If you’re not in the Augusta area, you can donate online.

LEASH_Abel

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Georgia Right to Life will hold “Together for Life 2013” at the steps of the State Capitol today, beginning at 11:30 AM. Former State Rep. Doug McKillip will deliver the keynote address, and the group will walk silently as a memorial.

The Georgia General Assembly will hold Joint Budget Hearings on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in Room 341 of the State Capitol and convenes again on Monday, January 28th, 2013.

The agenda for the Joint Budget Hearings is available by clicking here.

Governor Deal is expected to address today’s joint budget hearing at 10:30 AM. Also addressing today’s hearing will be state fiscal economist Kenneth Heaghney, the Department of Education, the University System of Georgia, the Technical College System of Georgia, the Department of Early Care and Learning, the Student Finance Commission and the Secretary of State’s Office.

Wednesday’s budget hearing will include the Departments of Correction, Juvenile Justice, Transportation, Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Labor and Economic Development.

On Thursday, the joint committees will hear the Departments of Human Services, Community Health, Public Health, Revenue and the Office of Planning and Budget.

Former State Senator Chip Rogers will be paid $150,000 per year at his new job at Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Former state Sen. Chip Rogers will start his new job Tuesday earning a lofty $150,000 – making him the seventh executive at Georgia Public Broadcasting earning six-figures annually, despite a rather pedestrian title: Executive producer, community jobs program.

The position, like others at GPB, is paid solely through state taxpayers’ money. But it is more than Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle each make in their public jobs.

And it is more than what some of Rogers’ new colleagues made in the last fiscal year, including GBP’s vice president for radio and its chief information officer.

What are the odds of Rogers providing color commentary if horse racing is passed in the legislature?

The State Auditor reports that most Georgia tax breaks go to individual citizens rather than large companies.

Tax collections so far this fiscal year are coming in below the projected rate, prompting Deal to order all state agencies – except K-12 education – to trim 3 percent from their spending. At the same time, costs for Medicaid are more than $300 million over budget already this year, not counting a nearly $700 million hole that would be left in the budget if the hospital tax isn’t extended.

Legislative budget writers started requiring governors in recent years to submit a document called the Tax Expenditure Report that estimates how much each tax break leaves in the private economy and out of the government’s use.

“Although not direct government expenditures, tax expenditures represent an allocation of government resources in the form of taxes that could have been collected (and appropriated) if not for their preferential tax treatment,” State Auditor Greg Griffin wrote in his letter delivering the report.

The largest tax breaks is the so-called personal exemption from individual income taxes representing $1 billion. Exemptions for retirement income, $697 million, Social Security, $140 million, and credit for taxes paid to other states, $185 million, are also among the largest ways private Georgians keep from forking more over to the government.

Exemptions from the sales tax also benefit individuals, including $509 million on food, $423 million for prescriptions, $171 million on lottery tickets and $8 million on school lunches. The sales-tax holidays that temporarily exempt school supplies save another $41 million.

Some business tax breaks are due to expire this year. A break on seed, fertilizer and farm chemicals that ended Jan. 1 totaled $150 in the last fiscal year. The exemption of certain machinery used in the manufacturing of consumer items expired the same time and amounted to $175 million last year.

One due to expire in June is the sales tax exemption for airplane engine-repair parts worth $7 million last year. It’s being pushed by companies like Gulfstream Aerospace which argues jobs would be lost if airplane customers took their business to states that don’t charge the tax.

The City of Atlanta will ask the legislature for a number of changes to existing law in order to help it with budget issues.

The city of Atlanta’s legislative wish-list for the 2013 General Assembly includes changes in state law that would allow the city to increase taxes on alcohol, sell condemned and blighted property to private parties, designate sales tax revenue disbursements by tenths of a cent rather than a full penny, and charge the public school system for the cost of running school board elections.

One proposal — such as slicing penny sales taxes into smaller increments of one-tenth of a percent, which could go to different purposes — is similar to those pushed this year by Cobb County.

A sales tax levied in Atlanta at a tenth of a percentage point could generate about $11 million or $12 million in revenue per year.

Yolanda Adrean, who represents northwest Atlanta on the City Council, said the proposal would provide municipalities with much-needed flexibility.

“If a penny of tax could be split between more than one priority, it could allow the city to move on some very crucial needs,” Adrean said. “I’m not suggesting that we add a penny of sales tax. In a time where there’s a great deal of sensitivity to how much you’re taxed and where that money goes, this gets everyone focused. There are lots of pressing needs that are not getting funded.”

As for the similar fractional-tax measure for Cobb County,

State Rep. John Carson (R-Northeast Cobb) told Around Town on Thursday that he would introduce a bill, possibly as soon as this week, that would pave the way for such special local option sales taxes, also known as “fractional SPLOSTs.” The tax would be charged increments of a twentieth of 1 percent, if passed. At present the sales tax can only levied in increments of 1 percent, although receipts from that 1 percent are often divided among several jurisdictions.

In theory, they also would prevent situations in which a governing body, knowing that a full penny SPLOST would raise X amount of dollars, proceeds to inflate its SPLOST-project list in order to match the expected revenues.

The concept has the backing of Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee.

Carson’s bill would apply statewide and allow counties and cities to charge less than a full 1 percent sales tax. A similar bill is soon to be introduced in the state Senate, said Sen. Judson Hill (R-East Cobb).

Senator Lindsey Tippins (R-West Cobb) told Around Town the Cobb School District has approached him in the past about introducing legislation for partial-penny SPLOSTs.

If approved by the Legislature, voters would then have to approve a constitutional amendment before the tax could be levied on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis.

“I have told them I feel like you can accomplish the same thing by doing a SPLOST for a specified number of months based on what your true need is and make a promise to the voters that you won’t go back to them for five years for another tax,” Tippins said. “So if you need to collect 60 cents on the dollar, you could collect it for three years and promise not to go back for five.”

“Now obviously the action of that board would not be legally binding on a subsequent board, but whoever wanted to go back and change that would be facing political suicide, so in actuality you could bind the board so if anybody on the school board says ‘We want to do a partial penny,’ we can accomplish the same thing without a constitutional amendment.”

Separately, Senator Tippins told the MDJ that he voted for the Hospital Bed Tax because it was the “lesser of two evils.”

Tippins said the alternative to levying the tax is forgoing federal matching funds and paying for Medicaid services through the state budget.

“So you’d be taking another $700 million out of existing state funding, and that would come from other agencies,” Tippins said. “You’re going to be hitting education very, very strongly, and all the other good services that the state provides. The reality is that money would have to come from somewhere because the state in their agreement to access the federal stimulus money cannot change the delivery pattern for Medicaid until 2014, so we’re locked in under the same eligibility and also under the same payment program.”

Fulton County’s next budget may include furloughs for lawyers and less funding for libraries.

Fulton’s countywide property tax rate has declined over the last decade, and most residents won’t see an increase this year. Under the proposed budget, residents of unincorporated South Fulton would see a 19 percent property tax increase to pay for police, fire and other municipal services. That would cost the owner of a $200,000 an extra $100 a year.

Fulton County would trim spending in its general fund – which pays for countywide services like courts, libraries and elections – 2 percent this year under the proposed $569.4 million budget.

Among other things, proposed cuts would lead to reduced library hours and spending for various social service programs. At a public hearing earlier this month, more than 60 people – many of them senior citizens – urged commissioners to restore funding for various programs.

DeKalb County will likely raise property taxes, its favorite method of balancing its budget.

As a result of declining property tax revenue and the incorporation of the city of Brookhaven, commissioners will have to consider spending cuts or a potential property tax rate increase proposed by DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis. The 1.9 percent millage rate increase would cost almost $49 dollars more a year for owners of a $200,000 home.

In December, Ellis proposed a more than $562 million dollar budget. In addition to a potential millage rate increase, the budget calls for a three percent cost of living adjustment for DeKalb County’s lowest paid workers, 25 additional police officers and maintaining $30 million dollars in reserve funding. Commissioners will have until the end of February to adopt the budget.

After serving two four-year terms on the Judicial Qualifications Commission, Jack Winter, who also is a former Chairman of the Fulton County GOP, will rotate off the Board. Governor Nathan Deal named Richard Hyde, whose investigations have led to a number of JQC actions and judicial resignations, as Winter’s replacement.

The Fulton County Republican Party named Mary Norwood as its appointee to the Fulton Board of Elections.

The President of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, supports the resolution by Senator Barry Loudermilk expressing regret at the state’s history of slavery.

Georgia Carry is challenging local regulations on the carrying of guns via handwritten letters.

Handwritten letters, dated Jan. 18, from James Camp of Temple, a GeorgiaCarry.org founder and recent state Senate candidate, were hand-delivered to Carrollton Mayor Wayne Garner and Carroll County Commission Chairman Marty Smith.

In the letter to Garner, Camp challenges a city ordinance prohibiting firearms on the GreenBelt trail and another which says firearms cannot be carried by parade participants.

The letter to Smith challenges a county ordinance which says the commission chairman, in times of local disasters or emergencies, can suspend the sale, distribution, dispensing or transportation of firearms, alcoholic beverages, explosives and combustible products and can close businesses which sell them.

Sure enough, after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote about inconsistencies in the list of banned vanity tags, two lawyers are suing on First Amendment grounds after their client’s choices, which included GAYPWR, were rejected. Surely a Miata would convey  that message clearly enough.

Georgia Republican Convention Cycle 2013

Rachel Little has released a list of endorsements in her bid for Chair of the Gwinnett County Republican Party that includes Congressman Rep. Austin Scott, State Rep. Tom Kirby, the GOP chairs of Muscogee, Rockdale, Newton, Bibb and Barrow counties, and former Gwinnett GOP chair Chuck Efstration.

Joseph Brannan, who was recently elected Chairman of the Second District Georgia Republican Party, will run for election to a full term.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 14, 2012

Bandit is a 3-4 month old, 15 pound puppy who likes nothing better than riding around in the passenger seat of your Trans-Am, dodging the law. The male lab mix is available for adoption today from Walton County Animal Services.


These “Spice Girls” are 3-4 month old Weimaraner mix puppies who weigh about 15 pounds each. Also available from Walton County Animal Services, any dog adopted from Walton is the best deal in new best friends, costing only $40 and including all shots.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Susan Weiner, the first female Mayor of Savannah and a major figure in the 1990s history of the Georgia Republican Party has died at the age of 66.

Known as a trailblazer for women, Mrs. Weiner (pronounced Why-ner) was elected mayor in 1991 and lost her bid for re-election by fewer than 260 votes.

In 1996, she helped U.S. Senator Paul Coverdell establish the Coverdell Leadership Institute, a training program designed to increase the number of Georgia Republicans in elected and appointed government positions. Then, in 2004, Gov. Sonny Perdue named her as the executive director of the Georgia Council for the Arts, a position that allowed her use her political knowledge to bolster theater and other arts.

Speaker David Ralston will propose an absolute ban on lobbyist gifts to legislators next Session, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Ralston told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday that a simple cap on the value of those gifts would do little to stem the influence of special interests. Instead, he said, he will propose to end the practice outright.

“I have always said while I believe the current system is a good system because it does provide information and it’s open and transparent that if we didn’t have that system then a prohibition would be better than a cap, and I haven’t changed my mind,” Ralston said.

Voters “spoke on the issue in the primary,” Ralston said. “I’m committed from the House side to making sure we have real, serious ethics reform.”

If results of a non-binding ballot question are sufficient to change the Speaker’s position, a good question is where the threshold lies. Did the Personhood ballot amendment or casino gambling measure attract enough support to translate into a vote on the floor of the State House?

Fifteen extra votes were “found” during the recount for Fulton County Sheriff.

The found votes didn’t make enough difference to give the losing candidate, former Sheriff Richard Lankford, the runoff he wants. Current Sheriff Ted Jackson still won outright with 50.05 percent of the vote, according to recount results certified by the elections board on Monday.

“If you do a recount, you ought to get the same results you do the first time,” Lankford said.

The found votes might not have made a difference in that election, but we hope they will spur the General Assembly to take a close look at Fulton County’s elections office and consider whether the Secretary of State should have some level of oversight where a county has a history of election mistakes like Fulton County does.

The Gwinnett County Republican Party will host a runoff forum for the remaining candidates for County Commission District Three, Gwinnett County Superior Court, and Gwinnett County State Court on Wednesday night, August 15 beginning at 7 PM at the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center at 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville. Doug Richards of 11Alive will moderate the forum.

Invited candidates include:
District 3 – Mike Beaudreau and Tommy Hunter
Superior Court – Kathy Schrader and Tracey Mason Blasi
State Court – Emily Brantley and Pam Britt

Republican State Representative Buzz Brockway has endorsed Kathy Schrader in the runoff for Gwinnett Superior Court.  “I’m endorsing Kathy Schrader because her experience and qualifications make her the best candidate for Gwinnett County Superior Court. I encourage voters to join me in voting for Kathy Schrader in the August 21st runoff election,” said Brockway. Brockway joins Senator David Shafer and State Rep. Brooks Coleman, who previously endorsed Schrader.

Snellville City Council voted 4-2 to consider restricting the Mayor’s power to appoint and nominate to some city board’s and jobs.

Though the action voted on Monday took no formal action, it set the stage for possible future changes that would prohibit Mayor Kelly Kautz in terms of making nominations for positions like city attorney, city manager and various boards.

Kautz and ally Councilman Mike Sabbagh voted against the move.

“I believe this is only going to intensify the conflict in our city,” Kautz said. “I have tried to compromise on many things, on many nominations, as you’ve seen here tonight … The charter is something that I have to stand strong on, and that I have to protect not just for the current mayor but for the future mayors of Snellville.”

Councilman Dave Emanuel said Snellville’s current charter and mayoral appointment capabilities was “out of step with at least six other cities in Gwinnett County.”

“I don’t see it as taking away power from the mayor, I see it as taking an out-of-date charter and bringing it up to date … I think frankly it will make the council work better together,” Emanuel said. “This isn’t about power, this is about moving forward, this is about overcoming hurdles.”

Candidates for the newly-formed City of Brookhaven began qualiying this week.

J. Max Davis
• District 1:
Alan Cole
Kevin D. Fitzpatrick Jr.
• District 2:
• District 3:
Hope Bawcom
Ben Podgor
Erik Steavens
• District 4:
Kerry Witt
Qualifying for candidacy ends Wednesday, Aug. 15, at 4:30 p.m.

J. Max Davis, who served as President of Brookhaven Yes, and the only announced candidate for Mayor of Brookhaven, first ran for office against State Rep. Mike Jacobs, who sponsored the incorporation bill.

In the Ninth Congressional District, a new survey puts Martha Zoller ahead of State Rep. Doug Collins for the Republican nomination by 43-39. The poll was conducted by Wenzel Strategies, which has been criticized for bias in surveys for right-wing organizations and on behalf of Republican candidates.

The Marietta Daily Journal writes that the bags of money thrown at passing T-SPLOST went down the drain, “it would appear that the campaign spent roughly $26.21 for each vote it received. Not much bang for its bucks in the metro region, in other words.”

The election for State House District 139 may or may not be about race, depending upon whom you ask.

“Well they’re trying to present that it’s about race, and it is not. It’s not when it comes to Commissioner Bentley and Representative Lynmore James,” says Bentley.

But blogger Keith McCants, who is managing the campaign of Bentley’s opponent Thomas Coogle, writes that Bentley played the race card against Coogle.

Thomas Coogle & Patty Bentley will meet in a runoff to determine who will succeed Lynmore James who retired after this year’s legislative session.

But as expected. the use of the Race card is now being thrown around in attempts to keep HD 139 “BLACK” or in Black Control.

My high ranking sources down in Vienna & elsewhere have been emailing me, as well as texting me that retiring State Representative Lynmore James, along with his Bentley this week alone has been making the rounds in the swing county (in which Coogle got 47.9% of the vote, while Bentley got 34%) telling voters & county/city officials that the district needs to be, it has to be represented by a Black, not a white & that folks in Atlanta are used to seeing a black face representing HD 139 (formerly HD 135). In other word..LET’S KEEP HD 139 BLACK

Now, the district has a 57% Black Population, 62% minority population with hispanics included.

Events

On August 15th, beginning at 6 PM, Josh Romney will headline a fundraiser aimed at young professionals at the Park Tavern at Piedmont Park in Atlanta. Georgia Finance Chair Eric Tanenblatt will host with Congressmen Tom Graves, Rob Woodall, and Austin Scott expected to attend.

Host / Private Reception / Photo — 6 p.m.
$1,000 per Person (Give or Raise)

Photo Opportunity — 6:30 p.m.
$250 per Person

General Reception — 7:00 p.m.
$100 per Person

Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal will host Governor Mike Huckabee at a reception and dinner supporting the Romney Victory Committee on August 16th at 5:30  (Photo Op) & 6:15 PM (Reception) at the Robson Event Center, located at 310 Broad Street in Gainesville, GA 30501. The full invite is available here.

5:30 PM Photo Op – ($5,000 PER PERSON/ $10,000 PER COUPLE)

6:15 PM General Reception – ($1,000 PER PERSON)

To RSVP for either of these events, please contact Dabney Hollis at (404) 791-7179 [email protected], or Stephanie Jones at (404) 849-7211 or [email protected]