Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for January 3, 2014

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In 137 days, the Primary Elections for federal offices will be held in Georgia, with the General Assembly likely to move state Primary Elections to the same date. It is also likely that the first ballots will be cast in a little over three months from today, as early voting will likely begin in April this year. Welcome to the starting line.

On January 3, 1766, the British crown sent its first taxation representative to Georgia to administer the Stamp Act, which required each piece of paper, including business and legal documents, to bear an embossed stamp to show that tax had been paid. Georgia’s royal Governor had to have the agent protected with armed troops and he left two weeks later. Georgia merchants agreed to pay the tax in order to allow ships to be unloaded (which required a written bill of lading, hence the tax requirement). Georgia was the only colony in which taxes were actually collected under the Stamp Act, earning the enmity of other states. Thus, our current disdain for taxation has an historical precendent.

On January 3, 1861, Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown ordered volunteer militia to seize Fort Pulaski, then controlled by the federal government, though Georgia then remained part of the United States. In spring 1862, the feds, with new rifled cannon, seized Pulaski back and cut off traffic on the Savannah River to the Port of Savannah.

On January 3, 1947 Helen Douglas Mankin ended her only term in Congress from Georgia. She is often cited as the first female member of Congress from Georgia, though Florence Gibbs actually holds that distinction. Mankin was elected in a 1945 Special Election and defeated for reelection in 1946.

On January 3, 1956, Iris Faircloth Blitch was sworn in to Congress from Georgia’s Eighth District, becoming the first woman elected in a regular election who would serve a full term in Congress from Georgia.

On January 3, 1973, Andrew Young became the first Black Member of Congress from Georgia since reconstruction, serving the Fifth District until his appointment in 1977 by fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter as Ambassador to the United Nations.

Saturday is the 53d birthday of Michale Stipe, born at Fort McPherson, Georgia in 1960.

On January 4, 1995, Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich was elected Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, becoming the third Georgian to hold that office after Congressmen Charles Crisp (1892-1896) and Howell Cobb (1850-1851).

On January 4, 1999, Alvin T. “Al” Wong was sworn in as Judge of the DeKalb State Court, and took the bench as the first Asian-American judge in the Southeastern United States.

On January 5, 1868, General George Meade took command of the Third Military District, beginning the Reconstruction in Georgia.

On January 5, 1926, Hosea Williams was born in Attapulgus, Georgia.

In these three days, we see illustrated the sweep of Georgia’s history as a state. From the Colonial period, through the Civil War and Reconstruction, the movement of women into political leadership, followed by African-Americans, the ascendance of the Republican Party in Georgia and as the dominant Southern party, to the first steps of Asian-Americans and other minorities into roles of political leadership.

Speaking of Asian-Americans

First of all, I am one. My grandfather was Japanese. Also, two Asian-Americans were elected in Georgia in 2013, including Morrow City Councilwoman Hang Tran.

Five candidates may not sound like many, but previous election cycles typically saw just one or two, said Helen Ho, executive director of the Asian-American Legal Advocacy Center of Georgia.

“I kind of feel the snowball is finally getting bigger,” said Ho, whose organization is working to get Asian-Americans to vote. “There seems to be some momentum.”

Tran, who works as a chemist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the absence of Asian-Americans in local government motivated her to run. “I just thought there wasn’t enough representation,” she said.

This year, the name of Eugene Chin Yu, an Augusta businessman of Korean ancestry, will appear on the statewide ballot among candidates for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Still, conversations with a half dozen Asian-Americans reveals a wide spectrum of political engagement — well short of a definitive groundswell. And even community leaders acknowledge the challenges of mobilizing a group that includes many disparate cultures and languages, as well as, among some immigrants, a fear of government instilled by repressive regimes in their countries of origin.

Daewon Hwang said his Korean church congregation in Cumming is a blank slate when it comes to political interest.

The reason? “The language problem,” the pastor said as he shopped in a Korean supermarket in Duluth, where 22 percent of residents are Asian-American.

Down the road in a Chinese supermarket, Yanfeng Li said he sees stirrings of engagement: websites that express political views, even some calls for candidates.

Edward Chu, an interpreter who lives in Lilburn, votes, but does not take an active interest in local politics. He’d like to see someone from the Chinese community elected to local office, but he would not support a candidate simply because of his or her heritage.

“I’d have to agree with them,” he said.

Behind the scenes, there’s a push under way to nudge Asian-Americans toward the voting booth.

Asian-American groups have canvassed door-to-door to register voters, made robo-calls before elections and brought in candidates for forums and dinners. For this year’s elections, they are targeting high-concentration areas such as Norcross, Clarkston, Duluth, Lawrenceville and John’s Creek.

Ho’s group has created a statewide database of Asian-Americans and other immigrants to track who is registered and who has voted. According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, the number of Asian-Americans who are active voters grew by about 10,000 from 2008 to 2012 to stand at more than 72,000.

“We cannot just have other community members making important decisions,” said Travis Kim, who served as president for the past two years of the Korean American Association of Greater Atlanta. “We have to be involved.”

State Rep. B.J. Pak (R-Gwinnett) is the only Asian-American member of the Georgia General Assembly, and he wrote an op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution urging our fellow Asian-Americans to vote.

While Georgia’s AAPI voter rolls increased approximately 230 percent from 2004 to 2012, the actual turnout percentage has decreased. In Georgia, only 54.7 percent of Asian-Americans registered to vote voted in the 2012 presidential election.

In Gwinnett, where AAPIs comprise roughly 12 percent of the population — the highest percentage in the state — the turnout was even lower, at 51 percent. Despite having the highest percentage of those with college degrees among all groups, Asian-Americans had the lowest turnout percentage of all racial/ethnic groups.

AAPI statewide turnout percentage actually declined significantly during the last three presidential election cycles – from 65.7 percent in 2004 to 58 percent in 2008 and 54.7 percent in 2012. These percentages would shrink even more, if we were to include in the denominator the number of Asian-Americans who were eligible but not registered..

So, what might be causing lower turnout and perceived apathy? Based on my observations, some general themes emerge.

First, many first-generation AAPIs indicated they were unable to make it the polls on Election Day because they own and operate small businesses. Although several alternatives to in-person voting on Election Day exist, many of these voters simply were not familiar with the availability of early and absentee voting.

Second, the structure of government in the U.S. is complex. Many find it difficult to fully comprehend the functions of each political office for which they are voting. Many also find it intimidating to vote because they are not fluent in English. Ballots and instructions are in English.

Third, the AAPI population is diverse. Attitudes regarding civic involvement vary in light of their past experiences with their birth country. Some simply believe they cannot have a relationship with their elected officials, that their votes would not matter, or that they cannot make a difference in government.

Lastly, when AAPI parents do not vote, their children are less likely to be involved civically.

How do we reverse the trend? At the very least, it requires combined efforts by government officials, candidates for office, and community leaders.

Perhaps some folks would like to help Rep. Pak get his op-ed translated and published in some of the Asian-language newspapers and newsletters that appear in our communities. Sounds like a great way for the Georgia Republican Party to start outreach to groups of voters some of whom are likely to be sympathetic to conservative ideology if we reach out to them.

Helen Kim Ho, who is mentioned in the first article above, makes such a point in another Op-ed in the AJC.

Any political party interested in expanding its base in Georgia must engage immigrant voters or those who have come to this country recently and become naturalized citizens.

Take Gwinnett County, with 4.5 percent Asian, 4.8 percent Latino and 25 percent African-American active voters. While voter turnout as a whole went down between the last two presidential elections at both state and county levels, voter turnout in Gwinnett increased among immigrants.

In the 2012 Duluth House district race, state Rep. Pedro Marin — the Democratic incumbent who was redistricted to a majority Republican district running through New Koreatown — won in large part due to Asian-American voters. He also won by a larger margin there than in his former majority-Democratic district.

What can be deduced from Marin’s race is that while many Asian-Americans identify as Republican — slightly more than 50 percent, based on an exit poll we conducted in 2010 — they vote ultimately on issues. A voter survey we conducted this year of hundreds of voters in Gwinnett found 20 percent saying they voted based on party loyalty.

The percentage of white voters in Georgia is on the decline. Georgia is growing more urban and less rural. Counting on the vote of avowed Democrats in the state won’t win or influence larger elections. And token, last-minute pleas to immigrant voters with top-down messaging don’t work.

That’s where knowledge of what issues catalyze immigrant civic participation can help win votes. Our 2013 Voter Survey, which included a majority of Asian respondents, asked respondents to select their top priorities from a list of 11 issues. The top three issues were public education, economic equity/small business and access to health care. Immigration was also important, but as a secondary issue alongside transportation and public safety.

Georgia Republicans now have a challenge squarely in front of us. Who’s willing to work on this project? I very rarely say nice things about the AJC, though their reporting on APS cheating scandals was world-class, but I want to thank them for paying attention to this issue.

Allen West calls out Georgia Democrats for opposing a Georgia Democrat

Allen West has called out some Georgia Democrats who are opposing the nomination of DeKalb County State Court Judge Eleanor Ross to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Civil rights leaders are showing their “true colors” again in my home state of Georgia over judicial appointments.

According to Politico,

President Barack Obama has upset Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and other civil rights leaders by ignoring their input in picking four nominees to fill vacancies on the federal bench in Georgia’s Northern District.

Lewis and fellow Presidential Medal of Freedom winners Joseph Lowery and C.T. Vivian are expected to ask Obama to withdraw his nominees — a demand that is unlikely to be met — amid concerns about the judges’ records and convictions on matters of importance to African-Americans.

The three appointments in question are:

Mark Cohen — the lead defense attorney in challenges to Georgia’s voter ID law.
Michael Boggs – a state judge who, as a member of the state Legislature, once voted to keep in place the Confederate-themed Georgia state flag
Eleanor Ross – a female state judge who is black and (gasp) a REPUBLICAN

The fourth nominee (not being specifically contested by Lewis) is Leigh Martin May – a female trial lawyer who is white — but a Democrat.

Why is Ross such a troublesome choice for Lewis? According to Joe Saunders, writing for BizPac Review,

U.S. Rep. John L. Lewis (D-Ga) is accusing the president of selling out his political base by naming Eleanor Ross as a federal judge. She is, literally, not politically correct enough. Since most black women are Democrats, Lewis reasons, any black woman Obama appoints should be Democrat, too.

This case also clearly demonstrates who is raging the real “war on women.” The Democrats want to keep black women in their place, on the political plantation.

The irony in this all is that I’m not aware, as a DeKalb Republican, of any evidence that Eleanor Ross is a Republican, other than Democrats simply stating it. Here’s Judge Ross’s voting history, from PoliticalDataSystems.com:

Eleanor Ross Voting Record3

Her voting record above shows Democratic Primary elections and General Elections. She served as an Assistant District Attorney in Fulton County and Assistant Solicitor in DeKalb under elected Democrats. A search of the Ethics Commission website shows no Republican donations. The only Republican tie of which I am aware is that Governor Nathan Deal appointed Ross to the DeKalb State Court.

I reject the contention that Eleanor Ross is a Republican as being based solely on the facts that Governor Deal appointed her to a nonpartisan position in DeKalb County and that her nomination to the federal bench is apparently supported by Georgia’s Republican United States Senators, without which any nomination is doomed.

And speaking of Allen West, he will be the featured speaker at the Bridging the Gap Lincoln Day Dinner on February 27, 2014 in Leesburg, Georgia. From an email I received:

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.

For the 1st Annual Lincoln Day Dinner, our featured speaker is LTC. Allen West who will share with the audience his extensive knowledge and experience, as well as provide insight on the support systems needed to enhance services to veterans. Attendees will get valuable information about Bridging The Gap of Georgia and initiatives that can address the needs and issues of veterans in their local community.

Please find detailed information about the event below.

1st Annual Lincoln Day Dinner
February 27, 2014  Time to be announced
Featured Speaker: LTC. Allen West
The Bindery at Oakland Library & Event Center
445 Oakland Parkway, West
Leesburg, GA 31763
$50.00 per person (includes dinner)
Proceeds to benefit Bridging The Gap of Georgia
Sponsored by the Lee County Republican Party

LTC. Allen West is a Georgia native, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Fox News contributor and served in both Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield.  His book, “Guardian of the Republic” is due to be released in April 2014.  Throughout his years leading troops, raising a loving family, serving as Congressman in Florida’s 22nd district, and emerging as one of the most authentic voices in conservative politics, LTC. West has never compromised the core values on which he was raised: family, faith, tradition, service, honor, fiscal responsibility, courage, and freedom.

You can reserve your seat for the Lincoln Day Dinner by visiting Bridging the Gap on their website.

Nancy Jester visits Spalding County GOP

Last night, Nancy Jester, Republican candidate for State School Superintendent, visited the Spalding County Republican Party.

Jester Noble

Saturday, Jester will speak to the Gwinnett County Republican Party monthly meeting at 550 Trackside in Lawrenceville. Karen Handel will also be addressing the meeting.

County party organizations or other conservative groups who would like to hear Nancy Jester’s conservative message about how to get better educational results for our children through conservative fiscal management and “more classroom, less bureaucracy,” please email her at [email protected].

Greg Williams handicaps the Senate race

Our friend Greg Williams has his take on the starting positions in the Senate race. My own analogy is that we’re at the point where the candidates have been training and are now settling into the blocks. Like the picture at the top, they all start from the same starting line, but some will have an inside track. We’re in the middle distance phase of the race now, where you need both stamina, and endurance. Greg, of course, prefers a football metaphor.

Greg’s List is proud to provide our version of Georgia’s Best Conservative Senator rankings beginning Week One 2014. Our rankings will be comprised of scientific polling data, objective interviews, subjective analysis, and generalities drawn from an amalgamation of traditional media, social media and new media reactions to the individual candidates…In other words, we will provide the proverbial “Educated Guess”…or, “Enlightened Prediction” as we grassroot melo-dramatists prefer..
So, without further adieu, we present our “inaugural” rankings of 2014: 1. Jack Kingston–There’s no such thing as bad press and Kingston recovered nicely from his verbal fumble regarding childhood cafeteria sweeping aka Work Ethic in public schools. Kingston is the Senior member of Congress out of the three announced House of Representative candidates and has significant support from Coastal and Southern Georgia. Appearances on Bill Maher’s show and other national networks has enhanced his name ID in Metro Atlanta and he leads the pack in fundraising…
2. Karen Handel–With her grassroots apparatus from previous state wide races intact, Handel is a formidable competitor in the Senate race…On a purely subjective basis, Handel has the luxury of combining passionate and articulate volunteers that show up en masse for every state-side grassroot event.
3. David Perdue–Money, money, money…And lack of a voting record…Both are Boons to a prospective Senate candidate, and his last name won’t alienate him to voters, despite the wistful predictions from the anti-Sonny crowd…
4. Phil Gingrey–Clumsy defense of Todd Akin’s insanity regarding “legitimate rape” questions his ability to articulate Conservative principles…Has money though, and a large network due to his previous Congressional Geographic coverage…

5. Paul Broun–Fundraising and lamentable Social Conservative strict Biblical interpretations hold this candidacy back…The passion of his supporters could elevate him to run-off status but many things would have to fall into place and its too early to predict their manifestation..

Bill Byrne announces for Cobb Commission District 1

Byrne served as Chairman of the Cobb County Commission from 1992 to 2002 and is running for the district seat being vacated by Helen Goreham, who is not seeking reelection. From his pre-announcement:

As of December 30, 2013, I am announcing that I am a Republican candidate for Commission District 1, of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners.

My campaign will focus on the following issues facing Cobb County:

GOVERNING RESPONSIBILITY:
Decisions by Government, at all levels, must be fundamentally based on the principles of the Constitution and be limited, focused and based on the WILL OF THE PEOPLE being served.

PUBLIC SAFETY:
The primary responsibility of Government, at all levels, must always be Public Safety.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT:
I am committed to work with the cities of Acworth, Kennesaw and Marietta to bring new companies and business opportunities to those urban centers of Cobb County.

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.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 13, 2012

This beautiful, blue-eyed, white husky-mix is described as sweet and is available from the Murray County Animal Shelter in Chatsworth. Without a rescue or adoption, he will be euthanized on Friday in the pre-dawn hours.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The United States Supreme Court will hear a challenge to parts of the Voting Rights Act that affect states that had a history of vote discrimination when the act was passed; this includes Georgia.

The challenge to Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was launched two years ago, and the court added it to its docket just days after an energized minority electorate played a critical role in the reelection of President Obama, the nation’s first African American president.

The justices said they would decide whether Congress exceeded its authority in 2006 when it reauthorized a requirement that states and localities with a history of discrimination, most of them in the South, receive federal approval before making any changes to their voting laws.

Three years ago, the court expressed concern about subjecting some states to stricter standards than others using a formula developed decades ago. But the justices sidestepped the constitutional question and found a narrow way to decide that case.

Georgia State House Republicans re-elected their leadership team yesterday, with Speaker David Ralston, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, Majority Whip Ed Lindsey, Vice Chair Matt Ramsey, and Secretary Allen Peake unopposed and Caucus Chair Donna Sheldon beating back an intramural challenge from Rep. Delvis Dutton.

The Democratic Caucus reelected everyone but Rep. Brian Thomas, who was beaten by Rep. Virgil Fludd.

Later this week, Georgia Senate Republicans will gather at Little Ocmulgee State Park for a group hug caucus meeting. Pro-tip to anyone attending: do not accept any offers of an “after dark swamp tour.” (more…)

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. (more…)

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 22, 2012


Great Pyrenees are prized dogs for their temperment and their guarding abilities as well as their beautiful white coats. These GP puppies are part of a litter of five that was found alone outside and they are available for adoption from Murray County Animal Shelter. Adoption costs $115 and includes vetting, spay/neuter, heartworm, and rabies treatments. If they are not adopted by pre-dawn Friday they will be euthanized.


Also on the euthanasia list for early Friday morning are these three black lab puppy littermates, who are about seven weeks old and were found abandoned at the side of the road.


This great mama and her three puppies are also available for adoption from Murray County Animal Shelter and will be euthanized before dawn on Friday if not adopted. They like people and other dogs.


This 4.5 year old female hound is also a mom, and she and her puppy (below) are said to be sweet dogs who get along with people or other dogs. Like the others here, they are available for adoption from Murray County and will be euthanized on Friday pre-dawn if not rescued.


This eight-month old puppy came in with her mama (above) and is available for adoption from Murray County Animal Shelter with a literal deadline of pre-dawn Friday.

These dogs and fourteen others are on the list for euthanasia on Friday morning. Unfortunately, this situation is the norm at shelters across Georgia. If you cannot adopt a dog, you might be able to help by transporting a dog from a shelter to a foster home or rescue organization, or by donating to a reputable rescue group. Transportation for each of the above dogs can be arranged to the Atlanta area. If you’re outside Atlanta but not close to Murray County, email me and we’ll try to put you in touch with some folks to help transport them to you.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton debated his two challengers, Democrat Steve Oppenheimer and Libertarian Brad Ploeger, who both tried to out-maneuver the other on the left.

GOP incumbent Chuck Eaton denied opponents’ accusations that he is too cozy with the companies he regulates.

“I’ve never granted Georgia Power Co. any of the rate increases they’ve requested,” he said, adding that he voted only for pared-down rate hikes.

Democrat Steve Oppenheimer said electricity rates had risen 24 percent during Eaton’s six-year term and that residential rates for natural gas were among the highest in the continental United States.

Eaton blamed federal regulations for half the expense of the latest electric rate increase…. (more…)

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for Oct. 12, 2012

Advance voting begins Monday for the November 6th General Election. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s early voting page has links to dates, times and places for your county’s advance voting. Remember to bring your Photo ID to vote; here’s complete information on which forms of Photo ID are acceptable.

Adoptable Dogs


If you’ve ever wanted one of those dogs you could take a picture of, add a funny caption, and make them famous on the internet, The Wise Buddah might be for you. This young blonde-haired, blue-eyed mixed breed is said to be very fun and playful and is available for adoption from the Fayette County Animal Shelter.

Tidbit is said to be a Doberman/Shepherd mix, but I’m thinking hound dog. Those ears aren’t stand-uppy enough to be either of those breed, but what do I know. He’s said to be a happy, affectionate pup and he’s available for adoption from the Fayette County Animal Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Voters in the CNN poll gave last night’s decision to Republican Nominee for Vice President Paul Ryan by a tight 48-44 margin.

Half of all debate watchers questioned in the poll said the showdown didn’t make them more likely to vote for either of the candidates’ bosses, 28% said the debate made them more likely to vote for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and 21% said the faceoff made them more likely to vote to re-elect President Barack Obama.

According to the survey, 55% said that the vice president did better than expected, with 51% saying that the congressman from Wisconsin performed better than expected.

By a 50%-41% margin, debate watchers say that Ryan rather than Biden better expressed himself.

Seven in ten said Biden was seen as spending more time attacking his opponent, and that may be a contributing factor in Ryan’s 53%-43% advantage on being more likable. Ryan also had a slight advantage on being more in touch with the problems of average Americans.

CBS News gave the win to Biden by 50-31.

Party-wise it’s a switch from last week’s presidential debate, which uncommitted voters handed easily to Romney over President Obama.

Both Biden and Ryan gained ground on relatability and knowledge. The percentage of voters who say they believe they can relate to Biden spiked from 34 percent before the debate to 55 percent; 48 percent think Ryan is relatable, up from 31 percent before the debate. Meanwhile, after watching the two candidates debate, 85 percent of those polled think Biden is knowledgeable about the issues; 75 percent say that about Ryan.

Ryan, though, faced a loss among voters’ opinions of which candidate would be an effective president, if necessary. Before the debate, he led Biden 45 percent to 39 percent; after the debate, 56 percent of those polled said Biden would be an effective president, with fewer – 49 percent–saying the same about Ryan.

Either way, though, it may matter little, as pre-debate polling by Rasmussen found that only 18% of American voters said that the Vice Presidential debate would be very important to their vote choice. History suggests that the VP candidate has very little influence on the eventual election results. (more…)