Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for January 3, 2014

Racetrack cover

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.” Continue reading

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 29, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 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…. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 11, 2012

Gwinnett County Animal Shelter runs a “Black Friday Sale” with adoptions of dogs and cats with black or majority-black coats costing only $30, a significant discount over the normal cost of $90 and a probably less expensive than the first set of vaccinations, which all of these dogs have received.
27904 above is described as “a treasure” by volunteers at the shelter, and “likes to retrieve a ball & lets you take it from his mouth. He doesn’t look to have been stray for long – appears well-kept, also he is non-reactive to other dogs. He’s small-statured and an absolute ball of fun! Would make a great companion all-around.” Unfortunately, he’s also listed as “urgent,” which means in danger of euthanasia. If someone adopts him today, a sponsor will cover the difference between the normal price and the “sale” price.

27978 is a black-and-white lab mix, who is a young, friendly female who is available for adoption today from the Gwinnett County Shelter and should be eligible for a discount tomorrow.

27851 is a majority-black German Shepherd male, who is friendly and is available today from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

27733 is a friendly lab mix female who is available for adoption today from Gwinnett.

27904 is a friendly black lab mix male who is available today for adoption from Gwinnett.


Grace is a 3-4 month old Chihuahua who is not eligible for a discount because she’s at Walton County Animal Services, but their adoption fee is only $40 to begin with. We ran her photo yesterday, but are featuring her again because this is such a great photo.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

If you don’t get enough of GOP Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan by watching tonight’s debate, you might want to attend a pair of fundraisers featuring Ryan on October 24th at the Cobb Energy Centre.

Admission to a reception at which the Wisconsin congressman is due is relatively low-priced, just $500 per guest, but the cost for a grip-and-grip and roundtable discussion are considerably higher.

Donors have been asked to contribute or raise at least $10,000 for a photo opportunity with Ryan and $25,000 for a roundtable discussion.

The Romney campaign said Friday it was not immediately apparent if Ryan would hold any public events while in Georgia.

The Gwinnett County GOP will hold a barbecue on Saturday, October 13 beginning at 11 AM. I’ll be in Bainbridge, so will miss it, but if their recent events are any sign, it’ll be a great event. Continue reading

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 9, 2012


Meet Cliff, who was born with a cleft palate and needs help for surgery to correct his birth defect. Most dogs born with a cleft palate die or are euthanized as puppies, but against the odds, Cliff has survived to adulthood. That’s not the only tough odds Cliff has faced; he was found abandoned, tied up to a tree and starving.

Lifeline Animal Project took Cliff into their shelter and paid for his care, eventually bringing him into an after-school program for high school students, and now he lives with a foster family. The fosters say he is a great, loving dog. Lifeline is asking for donations to pay for surgery to correct his cleft palate; without surgery his prognosis for long-term survival is grim.

To give for Cliff’s surgery, visit Lifeline Animal Project and donate online, designating the gift for Cliff in the comments. While you’re on their website, check out some of their other dogs and cats. You may also mail a donation to A New Life For Cliff, LifeLine Animal Project, PO Box 15466, Atlanta, GA 30333.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

After we released a poll showing Governor Romney increasing his lead among Georgia voters, Steve Perkins, a member of the Democratic State Committee, the State Executive Commite,  and a Delegate to the Democratic National Convention, posted on Facebook in response to a question about the poll:

Six lines of text that contain five misspelled words. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the leadership of the Georgia Democratic Party.

Speaking of polling, yesterday, Pew Research released new data showing a dead heat between Mitt Romney and President Obama among all voters, and a three-point Romney lead among likely voters.

Rasmussen moved the Ohio Senate race between Republican Josh Mandel and Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown into a dead heat as well.

Voter Registration and Elections

The General Election date is November 6th, 2012. The deadline for voter registration for the General Election is TODAY, October 9, 2012. Today would be a good day to email five friends with the following information, so they can make sure they’re registered.

To check your voter registration or view a sample ballot, please visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and use their MVP voter registration tool.

For questions about election dates, always check with the Georgia Secretary of State’s website or your local County Elections Office.

Advanced voting in person starts October 15, 2012here’s where and when to vote early in person in your county. More than 10,000 voters are marked as having already voted in the November 6th General Election, according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

As of yesterday, more than 126,000 Georgia voters had requested mail-in absentee ballot.

Floyd County added net voters to its rolls, reporting that in October 130 newly registered voters were added while 16 were removed for various reasons. Overall, voter numbers are down in Extreme Northwest Georgia.

As of Oct. 1, there were 224,197 registered in Floyd, Bartow, Chattooga, Polk, Gordon, Walker, Catoosa and Dade counties, according to the latest Georgia secretary of state report.

The Sept. 1 report showed 226,560 on the rolls — already a decrease from the 236,769 registered for the last presidential election in 2008.

A Get-Out-The-Vote ad filmed in Macon is now available for viewing online.

The ad appears to have an anti-Obama slant, and underneath the video on the website is the statement “America is hurting. We’re going into our 44th month with an unemployment rate above 8%. After being promised change, we haven’t seen it. This Election Day, your vote is the choice between a broken economy and a brighter future. Help make the difference–VOTE!”

State and Local Issues

Online shoppers will find a new item in their shopping cart: Georgia state sales taxes will now be collected in more online transactions.

With changes in the tax law that began to take effect last week, the state intends to begin treating some online retailers the same way it treats those with stores here: by collecting sales tax.

That means Georgians who avoid paying sales tax by buying online may now find that harder to do.

The amount of money people spend online is growing steadily and shows no signs of abating. In Georgia alone, a 2009 University of Tennessee estimate projected the state would lose as much as $455.5 million in uncollected sales tax from online purchases in 2012.

Collecting the tax from some web sellers that were not previously required to charge sales tax will add an estimated $18 million a year to the state’s coffers.

With the change, the state will collect just a portion of the missing dollars, but in Georgia and around the country, revenue shortfalls caused by the recession have added urgency to the push for more sales tax collections.

It’s also an issue of fairness for stores in local strip centers and shopping malls, which pay property taxes and contribute to the fabric of a community. A desire to put them on equal footing with online competitors has galvanized support to extend sales tax collections in many states. There is an expectation, too, that action by the states may lead the federal government to change laws regarding sales tax collections. Online-sales-tax bills are wending their way through the House and the Senate.

“It means a great deal to small business,” said Rick McAllister, president and CEO of the Georgia Retail Association. “It’s tough to start out the day at a mom-and-pop retail store when you’re at an 8 percent disadvantage before you open the door.”

Stores are only required to charge sales tax for online purchases in a state if they have a physical presence in that state: a Macy’s store at Lenox Square, for example, or a call center in Alpharetta.

Georgia has expanded its definition of a “physical presence” to get more online stores to collect sales tax from their customers.

Beginning last week, that included companies that use warehouses or offices in the state, whether they own them or not. At the end of the year, it will also include companies that have click-through ads on Georgia-based websites, known as affiliate relationships.

MARTA spent $144,000 on a psychological firm to assess the agency’s work environment.

Contracts showed $24,000 was to be paid to Dockery’s company in October 2010 for an initial assessment of MARTA leadership. The board agreed to pay the company and its minority partner, Optimism Matters, another $120,000.

“Interview feedback gathered from the Executive Management Team (EMT) and the board during September and November revealed numerous opportunities for performance improvement for Dr. Beverly Scott and the other members of the executive team,” the consulting group said in a November 2010 proposal to Tyler.

Jill Perry-Smith, an expert on organizational behavior at the Emory University, said businesses commonly hire outside consultants to try and determine what might be creating management problems, but such probes are generally are topical and not focused on the top executive.

“That is unusual,” she said. “It might suggest there is a problem with the leadership that needs to be addressed or it might suggest something else. It might send an unintended message that those commissioning it did not intend to send.”

MARTA has long battled criticism of its management and spending, with state lawmakers especially critical. State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, called the absence of a written evaluation from the Marietta consultant troubling.

“It’s a fairly extensive evaluation on an odd subject matter for which there appears to be no tangible result,” said Jacobs, who chairs the legislative committee that oversees MARTA. “I am going to ask questions about it. I would inquire into what was spent, how it was used and what the results were. I’m not going to prejudge the propriety of he expenditure but it certainly is questionable on its face.”

Maria Saporta accuses Jacobs of a bizarre conspiracy to takeover MARTA.

State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-DeKalb) has been quick to critique MARTA in just about any way he can.

But now it’s time to turn the table on Jacobs. During the search for a new general manager for MARTA, Jacobs acted in a most inappropriate manner by inserting himself into the process.

So why would Jacobs insert himself into MARTA’s search process when he had no appropriate role to do so?

The possible answers are disturbing. Did Jacobs and Ferrell have some kind of deal to help the state gain control over MARTA? Would Ferrell have viewed Jacobs as his true boss rather than the MARTA board? In other words, was Jacobs hoping to insert Ferrell as his puppet at MARTA?

Remember, the State of Georgia provides virtually no financial support for MARTA, and as such, it has no right to try to call the shots.

Actually, because MARTA is a creature of the legislature through the MARTA Act, the legislature does have the right and responsibility of oversight. The MARTOC committee, which Jacobs chairs, will meet on Thursday from 9 AM to noon in Room 406 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building.

Local officials in Douglasville, which has a goofy system that pays per meeting attended rather than a salary, have agreed to pay back more than $24,000 in payments received for meetings that did not occur or did not meet the city’s guidelines for payment.

Of these 284 improper payments, 91 were improper $313 payments to former Mayor Mickey Thompson, for which he has been indicted on theft by taking charges. That leaves 193 payments that went to members of council since 2007, with some members being paid for more than 30 meetings at $125 each – meetings that did not fit within the ordinance.

That means that Thompson was paid $28,483 that the GBI deemed improper. City council members received $24,313 improperly – for a total of $52,796 paid that was outside what is allowable by law.

The illegal payments, were first uncovered by a series of open records requests by the Douglas County Sentinel and then verified by the GBI probe based on the newspaper’s findings. The issue resulted from the current pay-by-the-meeting compensation used for elected officials. Council members are paid $125 per meeting and the mayor is paid $313 per meeting. Every other municipality of a similar size in Georgia pays a flat monthly salary to elected officials.

[Current Mayor Harvey] Persons said that in some instances, payments were made based on approvals by the former mayor, even though the council members in some cases didn’t request the payment.

“In closing, let me point out the City Council on Oct. 1 unanimously adopted a resolution to change the method of payment for the City’s elected officials from a per meeting basis to a fixed monthly salary basis,” Persons said. “Currently, we are reviewing how to accomplish this in accordance with State election laws governing a change in the level of an elected official’s compensation level other than at the start of the term of office for those elected at the next regular municipal election in November 2013.”

“I have said from the day I took office in January that the City of Douglasville needed to change how its elected officials are paid. I remain committed to seeing that this is done, and all members of the current City Council are in total agreement with this statement.”

No court date has been set for Thompson. Court records show that he has waived an arraignment and indications are that a plea deal, which would include repayment, is being worked out on the charges.

Click HereRome City Commissioners met with their local legislative delegation to discuss the city’s priorities and position for the 2013 Session of the General Assembly.

“A lot of what you do in the legislature affects us; in the services we provide, in the way we get our money,” City Manager John Bennett said. “And sometimes there are unintended consequences to what you do.”

State Reps. Katie Demp­sey, R-Rome, and Barbara Massey Reece, D-Menlo, attended the session along with two Georgia Municipal Association staffers, then the group toured city facilities on the Toonerville Trolley. State Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, is on Georgia National Guard duty and state Sen.-elect Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, also was absent because of work obligations.

Rome City Commission members met with local lawmakers Wednesday to discuss priorities for the 2013 Georgia General Assembly session. Their No. 1 wish: Consider the hometown impact of every proposed action.

“A lot of what you do in the legislature affects us; in the services we provide, in the way we get our money,” City Manager John Bennett said. “And sometimes there are unintended consequences to what you do.”

State Reps. Katie Demp­sey, R-Rome, and Barbara Massey Reece, D-Menlo, attended the session along with two Georgia Municipal Association staffers, then the group toured city facilities on the Toonerville Trolley. State Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, is on Georgia National Guard duty and state Sen.-elect Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, also was absent because of work obligations.

  • Board members asked lawmakers to keep pushing to allow local collection of sales tax, instead of running it through the Georgia Department of Revenue.“We have a better idea here who’s paying and who’s not paying, plus we’d get a more accurate remission,” Mayor Evie McNiece said.The Commission also supports a sales tax on Internet sales, she said, because tax-free sellers are unfair competition for local merchants.
  • Commissioners also want the Legislature to stop redirecting fees collected for special funds — such as the solid waste trust fund, teen driver education and public safety training.The House passed a bill this year that would halt collections if the money isn’t used for its intended purpose, but it did not pass the Senate by the end of the session. Dempsey said she expects it to be resubmitted in 2013.
  • The elimination of the “birthday tax” on car tags and the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing also are expected to affect local budgets.Lost money from the car tags will supposedly be made up by a new tax on person-to-person car sales but Commissioner Jamie Doss said local officials across the state are concerned that the revenue projections won’t hold up over time.

Augusta City Council candidates Mary Davis (D3) and Donnie Smith (D7) lead fundraising in their respective races.

Davis, who once served as Mayor Deke Copenhaver’s campaign chairwoman, has raised the most of any of the 11 candidates for the five seats. She has collected $38,865 since starting her campaign and has $21,030 on hand.

United State Senator Johnny Isakson’s office will have a staffer available for constituent issues in Rome on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, from 2 to 4 PM in the conference room of the Coosa Valley Credit Union, 1504 Dean Avenue, Rome, Ga. 30161.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 8, 2012

27950 (yellow) and 27951 (black) are little female puppies described as lab mix, who will be available for adoption beginning Wednesday from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. If you look closely at the photo on the right, it looks like the yellow one is hugging her sister. You should go adopt both of them.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The General Election date is November 6th, 2012. The deadline for voter registration for the General Election is TOMORROW, October 9, 2012. Today would be a good day to email five friends with the following information, so they can make sure they’re registered.

To check your voter registration or view a sample ballot, please visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and use their MVP voter registration tool.

For questions about election dates, always check with the Georgia Secretary of State’s website or your local County Elections Office.

Advanced voting in person starts October 15, 2012here’s where and when to vote early in person in your county. More than 10,000 voters are marked as having already voted in the November 6th General Election, according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Statewide Poll of Georgia Voters shows Romney’s lead over Obama increasing
In the month between September 4th and October 4th, Governor Mitt Romney’s lead over President Obama among Georgia voters increased by between 5.8 and 7.6 points. While Romney’s lead in Georgia has long been accepted as insurmountable, the increase means that Republican candidates down the ballot will benefit more from the coattail effect.
What does it mean to say that the lead has changed by 5.8 to 7.6 points? It means that if the demographics of the electorate resemble those of the 2008 General Election, Romney has gained 5.8 points, and if they resemble the 2010 General Election, Romney is up by 7.6 points.
Adjusting poll results to bring the demographics in line with a set of assumptions is called “weighting.” Here’s a lot of information about the process if you’re completely obsessed with polling.
Pundits have been arguing over the question of whether the electorate will be like 2008, and it’s an important point, as we can see that it affects the outcome of the election.
The tables above show how this works in a simplified manner. One of the major factors that led to President Obama’s election in 2008 was the extraordinarily high turnout of younger voters; the difference between 25% of 2008 voters being 18-34 years old and less than fifteen percent in 2010 was important because Obama was more popular with these voters.
Ultimately, when I look at polls, what I’m looking for is not so much exact numbers separating the candidates, but the direction each is moving. And here in Georgia, Romney is moving up and Obama is slipping.
Romney is up in polls in swing states as well according to Nate Silver.
On Friday, Mitt Romney had his best day in state-level polling since at least the party conventions, something that very probably reflects improvement in his standing following the presidential debate in Denver on Wednesday.

Two automated polling firms, Rasmussen Reports and We Ask America, released polls in Ohio, Florida and Virginia on Friday. All of these polls were conducted on Thursday, the day after the Denver debate.

In the Rasmussen Reports polls, Mr. Romney trailed President Obama by one point in Ohio. But he led him by one point in Virginia and by two points in Florida.

These are very good numbers for Mr. Romney as compared with the ones we were seeing recently, although part of that is because Rasmussen has shown more favorable numbers for him in these states throughout the year. As compared with Rasmussen Reports’ previous polls of the same states, the margin in Ohio held steady, but Mr. Romney gained two points in Virginia and four in Florida, for an average gain of two points among the three states.

Georgia College Republicans were in Virginia this past weekend and will be in Florida next weekend. Georgia Young Republicans also are headed to Florida this weekend, where they will go door-to-door on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and phonebank on Saturday evening.

Georgia Political News

Senator John Bulloch (R-Ochlocknee) has been hospitalized for meningitis and appears to be improving.

The qualifications challenge against Democratic state house candidate Ronnie Mabra has been settled, as a Fulton County Superior Court judge denied an appeal to the decision by Secretary of State Brian Kemp that Mabra is a resident of the district.

The AJC reported extensively about the campaign by former Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Paulding) to return to the Gold Dome.

Political signs are popping up in west Georgia. Campaign mailers are cluttering mailboxes. The race in the special election for the open seat in state Senate District 30 is off and running.

But Glenn Richardson, the once powerful Speaker of the House of Georgia, is still struggling at the starting line. By late-week, the man who once directed a quarter-million-dollar war chest and engineered a historic Republican takeover in the House, was still waiting to get his yard signs back from the printer.

There was a reason for the delay. “I had to have the money before I ordered them,” the Paulding County attorney said a bit sheepishly. “I’m not independently wealthy.”

In fact, he said, he’s pretty close to broke. Most months, he struggles to pay his mortgage. And campaign contributions are not exactly flowing in. What once was an endless stream of $1,000 donations is now drips and drabs of checks with one or two fewer zeroes.

While the bit about waiting until he could afford yard signs is a nice device for framing the hard-luck story, it’s no longer true, as Richardson had yardsigns available on Sunday.

The AJC writes further:

The Nov. 6 primary most likely will go to a runoff on Dec. 4, observers say, because there are four candidates, all with built-in geographical constituencies. More than half the nearly 1,000-square-mile, 90,000-voter district is in Carroll County and the other portions are in Douglas and Paulding counties.

Hembree, a Republican state rep with 18 years in office lives near Douglasville and has roots in Carroll. Naughton and Dugan both live in Carroll County.

Hembree has $49,000 in his election fund as a state rep but said he does not know it he can use the funds. In 2009, Richardson contributed $219,000 from his election fund to MMV Alliance PAC, a fund he started to elect Republicans. He said he cannot use the money for his election. Naughton, a successful businessman in his own right, is related by marriage to the Richards family, who owns Southwire, the cable manufacturing giant in Carrollton.

The two-month-long race, Hembree said, is a “100-yard dash at Olympic pace,” forcing candidates to eschew a slow, get-to-know-voters campaign and instead try to find them in groups whenever they can. Also, he hits the phones hard for contributions, making 100 calls a day.

“It’s a very grueling process,” Hembree said.

I think the AJC is wrong. We polled that district and found that Hembree leads with 38.7% to 10.2% for Richardson and both of the Carroll County candidates in single digits. I don’t see how Hembree doesn’t win outright on November 6th.

State Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Gwinnett) was appointed to the legislature’s Joint Human Trafficking Commission by Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge).

“I look forward to working with the other members of the Study Committee on this very important issue,” Brockway said in a statement. “Human trafficking is a brutal crime and every part of our community can play a role in providing the victims the help they need.”

Republican Congressman Rob Woodall (R-7) will meet his longshot Democratic challenger in a debate on October 15th from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at Gwinnett Technical College’s Busbee Center, located at 5150 Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville.

Republican Chatham County Commissioner Helen Stone was reimbursed for mileage to attend political events, including her own reelection announcement.

After being questioned by a reporter, Stone agreed the mileage reimbursements were inappropriate.

“I am not perfect,” Stone said. “I will screw up from time to time.”

Stone said it was questionable whether the meet and greets she attended were ineligible for mileage reimbursements — since she was meeting her constituents — but she decided to refund the county for those expenses to avoid any possible impropriety.

“I would rather err on the side of caution and get it right,” she said. “At this point my integrity as a commissioner far outweighs any monetary expense.”

Stone maintained that reimbursements for attending the campaign events of other Republican candidates were legitimate because they gave her a chance to learn about their platforms and she may be working with some of them.

The Macon Telegraph profiles Republican State Rep. Matt Hatchett and his Democratic challenger.

“My platform last time was almost the same as it is now — trying to recruit jobs back to our community,” said Hatchett, first elected in 2010.

He proudly points to one tax change he helped pass earlier this year: eliminating the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing.

“That’s already helping to attract jobs,” Hatchett said. He thinks that proposal is part of why Dinex and Erdrich, a pair of European manufacturers, came to Laurens County in early 2012, both bringing about 250 jobs.

The incumbent supports further changes, including a proposal to shift the state’s tax levies, taxing incomes less and sales more.

“I’m definitely a consumption tax person myself. I think that’s one of the fairer taxes,” Hatchett said.

Redistricting and Voting

Greene County Commission districts will be redrawn by the Legislative Reapportionment Office on a “blind” basis that ignores where incumbents live or the districts they currently represent:

At least two commissioners, however, still believe it’s the wrong way to go, contending the latest action still exhibits racism.

A blind map simply means that those drawing up a new district voting map won’t be concerned about what districts incumbent commissioners now represent.

“This is the best way to draw up the new map,” Channell said, following a 3-2 vote by commissioners to have officials with the Georgia Reapportionment Office draw the map, as opposed to it being drawn, locally, by commissioners and members of the Greene County Board of Education. “It takes away all the arguing that we had in the past.”

Two members of the five-member commission panel, Commissioners Marion Rhodes and Titus Andrews Sr. don’t like the idea of the state drawing up the new map. And they expressed their views, raising concerns already addressed in a federal lawsuit that was brought against the county earlier this year by members of the Greene County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

“I totally disagree with the whole process,” Andrews said, noting there were two existing maps on the table that already had been drawn up, locally. He said he couldn’t understand why commissioners couldn’t revisit one of those maps.

“Either one of those maps would be sufficient,” Andrews said.

“I feel the same way,” Rhodes said.

Commissioner Walter L. “Bud” Sanders said he didn’t believe either one of those maps would work, contending that the new map must conform to DOJ guidelines.

“It’s understood,” Channell replied.

Sanders quickly fired back, saying, “I don’t know if it’s understood or not by the state.”

Commissioner Gerald Torbert also weighed in, saying he favored incumbents not being considered when drawing up a new map.

Maps drawn up earlier by commissioners and school board members later were rejected by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The lawsuit by the NAACP followed.

Newnan City Council members will vote on new district maps for their own districts.

Newnan City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on new redistricting maps that will change how council members are elected and what districts voters live in.

The decision likely will mean council will have at least two sitting members in the same district and possibly three, meaning they will have to run against each other in the next election.

There are three maps under consideration, although one known as the “Butterfly Option” because of its shape, has little chance because it would dilute minority voting strength. And because the U.S. Department of Justice has to approve the new districts, there’s little hope it would pass their approval.

That option is the only one where none of the council members would have to run against each other. It would create six separate districts with voters in each district voting for one council member. The current makeup, which also includes six council members, splits the city into four districts and two super districts — voters select the council member from their district, as well as one super district representative.
Fulton County Elections Board member William Riley is said to have influenced his board fellow members to hire Sam Westmoreland.
When a panel of experts first rated candidates for the job, Westmoreland landed at the bottom of the list. Out of nine qualified applicants, he ranked seventh. But then William Riley, a board member and friend of Westmoreland, intervened and pushed for changes that allowed him to win the $105,000-a-year job.

The original scores were tossed out and board members themselves did another round of interviews. This time, Westmoreland ranked first. The board voted him in, choosing a onetime elections board colleague over competitors with years of election experience. Documents show it disregarded its own written hiring plan and failed to check his background or call his last three employers.

Riley said to blame him for giving Westmoreland an advantage is to give him too much credit.

“I can’t pick him,” he said. “It takes three votes to do anything.”

Westmoreland, a real estate lawyer, would go on to oversee a sloppy job of adjusting precinct lines for redistricting, leading to a bungled July primary where 690 voters in Sandy Springs and southeast Atlanta got assigned to the wrong state Senate and state House races.

Riley, a Republican Party appointee to the elections board, strongly denies friendship was his motive, but acknowledged politics played a role.

While he was friends with Westmoreland and had him to his home for dinner on several occasions, he said he also believed he was the best person for the job. He said he had become concerned that the county’s Registration and Elections Department was morphing into an arm of the Democratic Party, and he intervened because he feared the panel’s top picks would be too politically biased.

Although Westmoreland is a solid Democrat and a former head of the county Democratic party, Riley said he had worked with him for years and trusted him to keep politics out of the job. “He was my professional friend more than he was any other kind of friend,” Riley said. “He was best suited for this job, better than any of the other candidates.”

Quote of the Day, from the Savannah Morning News

“I’m an undecided voter and no one has knocked on my door and asked for a vote. All I’ve gotten is solicitations for money and emails. Until someone knocks on my door I guess I’ll waste my vote on a Libertarian.”

Ethics

Click Here

Georgia candidates on the November ballot were required to file Campaign Contribution Disclosures with the State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission last week.

In Arizona, a State Representative pled guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for his actions as a City Councilman in Tempe before he was elected to the legislature.

Phoenix, Arizona – Arizona State Representative Paul Ben Arredondo pled guilty today in Phoenix federal court, admitting that he solicited and took a bribe in exchange for promises of official action both as a city councilmember and a state representative. Arredondo also pleaded guilty to mail fraud, admitting that he defrauded donors to the Ben Arredondo scholarship fund.

Arredondo pleaded guilty to depriving the citizens of the city of Tempe, Ariz., and the state of Arizona of his honest services as an elected official, and to committing mail fraud. He entered his guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence Anderson.

Arredondo, 65, of Tempe, was a Tempe city councilmember for approximately 16 years, until July 2010. In November 2010, Arredondo was elected to the House of Representatives of the Arizona State Legislature.

During his plea, Arredondo admitted that from February 2009 to November 2010, he solicited and accepted things of value, collectively a bribe, from representatives of “Company A,” a fictitious company operated by FBI undercover agents that was purportedly seeking to develop real estate projects in Tempe.

Arredondo took the bribe with the intent to be influenced in the performance of his official duties, first as a councilmember and later as an elected member of the Arizona House of Representatives. Arredondo admitted that the things he took included tickets to college and professional sporting events, some of which he caused to be mailed to his home, and tables at charity events with his choice of guests. [Emphasis added].

In exchange for the bribe, Arredondo agreed to take a number of official actions, including revealing confidential information to Company A – such as the price Tempe would be willing to accept for property and the best way to present a purchase proposal. He also agreed to use his position as a councilmember to influence the decisions of other Tempe officials in ways that were favorable to Company A; to contact various Tempe officials to facilitate and promote the company’s efforts to win support for its real estate project; and, following his election to the Arizona House of Representatives, to assure representatives of Company A that he would continue to support Company A’s project. Arredondo did not disclose that he had received anything of value from representatives of the company during any of his interactions with Tempe officials about Company A.

Arredondo pleaded guilty to one count each of honest services mail fraud and mail fraud. Each charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the amount gained or lost in the scheme. Sentencing has been scheduled for Jan. 22, 2013.