Georgia Pundit http://gapundit.com Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections Tue, 25 Nov 2014 14:09:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Georgia Capitol Barricades today http://gapundit.com/2014/11/25/georgia-capitol-barricades-today/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=georgia-capitol-barricades-today http://gapundit.com/2014/11/25/georgia-capitol-barricades-today/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 14:09:38 +0000 http://gapundit.com/?p=46306 GaPundit:

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Barricades CapitolSM

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 25, 2014 http://gapundit.com/2014/11/25/georgia-politics-campaigns-elections-november-25-2014/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=georgia-politics-campaigns-elections-november-25-2014 http://gapundit.com/2014/11/25/georgia-politics-campaigns-elections-november-25-2014/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:24:30 +0000 http://gapundit.com/?p=46302 GaPundit:

On November 25, 1864, Sherman’s 14th and 20th Cor […]

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On November 25, 1864, Sherman’s 14th and 20th Corps moved toward Sandersville while the 17th Corps fought briefly against a mix of Kentucky Militia, Georgia Military Institute cadets, and Georgia convicts.

On November 25, 1867, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel filed a patent for dynamite. On November 25, 1895, Nobel wrote his will, leaving the equivalent of roughly $186 million (2008 dollars) to endow the Nobel prizes.

On November 25, 1920, the first play-by-play broadcast of a college football game took place at College Station as Texas A&M (then Mechanical College of Texas) took the field against Texas University.

President John F. Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on November 25, 1963.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience played its first show at the Bag O’Nails Club in London on November 25, 1966.

Ferguson

A rally will be held at Five Points in Downtown Atlanta today from 5 to 9 PM to address concerns about the Ferguson decision. Will reporters outnumber protesters?

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Michelle Nunn told the AJC that she’s not quite Dunn with politics and might be up for a future Runn for office.

“I feel we ran a good campaign. I feel proud of it. We had a great team – volunteers and staff,” she began. “You spend the first few days being disappointed. Then you spend the next few days feeling a lot of gratitude for the experience. And then you start to get into the analysis of it. I think that will go on for some time.”

When asked if she had another statewide race in her, Nunn’s reply was again studied.

“I will stay involved in service. That’s been the trajectory of my whole career,” she said. But politics?

“I’m certainly invested in continuing to build the kind of Georgia electorate that I think would be most healthy for our state – a two-party dialogue, one that engages more and more people,” Nunn said. “I’ll just leave open the possibility of electoral office.”

Jason Carter told the Albany Herald he was swept in a Republican wave.

Democratic State House Leader Stacey Abrams spoke with Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Jeanne Bonner about what the 2014 elections meant for female candidates.

“I’m concerned by the absence of women in not only the positions themselves but as candidates. I think we have to do a better job on both sides of the aisle to recruit and actively support candidates who not only reflect our partisanship values but reflect our people values. And having women reflected in the composition of our leadership in the state is critical.”

Abrams also says the election results don’t necessarily mean Georgia is averse to electing women to statewide offices.

“I think we have to separate out the candidate and the party,” she said. “This year was a Republican wave year. Republicans won. Republicans did not have women in Georgia as their candidates. The winning party did not elect any women. If the party carried the day, the challenge is their mantel was not held up by a single woman, and that should be very challenging to the Republican Party.”

While Republicans nominated and elected women to the state legislature, none of their nominees for Constitutional offices or Congress were women.

State Senator Curt Thompson (D-Gwinnett) introduced two bills on marijuana legalization. From a press release:

Thompson’s SB 7 would allow doctors to proscribe marijuana of up to two ounces for specific debilitating medical conditions, including: cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis-C, ALS, Chrone’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and chronic or debilitating condition that cause Cachexia (wasting syndrome), severe and chronic pain, severe nausea and seizures/muscle spasms from epilepsy or MS. SB 7 also includes a number of common sense limitations and guardrails for dispensing the drug. Marijuana, like any other prescription drug, would be regulated.

“During the 2015 legislative session, we will have the opportunity to provide our doctors with an additional tool by legalizing marijuana for medical use. This past summer, a joint study committee examined the options for legalizing marijuana and, already, three bi-partisan bills have been filed,” said Thompson. “Our discussions of marijuana in Georgia – in its many forms – have been largely limited to children’s health. While I adamantly support cannabis oil treatments for children with severe medical problems, I believe physicians should have the ability to care for all of their patients, regardless of age. SB 7 would provide doctors another tool for care and treatment.”

In addition, Thompson has filed SR 6 to advance the conversation of marijuana use. This constitutional amendment, if approved by voters, would legalize, regulate and tax the sale of retail marijuana through licensed establishments. The tax collections would be constitutionally earmarked for education and transportation infrastructure. Many other states have passed similar measures.

Thompson said the retail marijuana would co-exist with, not replace, medical marijuana. SB 7 includes lengthy requirements about licensing facilities, excise taxes and fees, the creation of a state authority to regulate the sales. SR 6, while separate from medical marijuana treatment, puts the discussion of retail marijuana regulation and taxation on the table.

Thompson said SR 6 provides an opportunity to regulate sales and to make available another revenue stream without raising existing taxes.

Preparing for his second term, Governor Nathan Deal made some staff changes:

Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth will become the director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) effective in January. Butterworth will replace Charley English, who will assume the position of deputy director of GEMA. The governor has also tapped Brig. Gen. Joe Jarrard, current assistant adjutant general of the Georgia Department of Defense, to serve as the adjutant general of Georgia effective in January.

Camila Knowles, current chief of staff for U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, has been nominated, pending board approval, to be the commissioner for the Department of Community Affairs effective in January. Knowles is replacing Gretchen Corbin, who has been nominated by Deal, pending board approval, as the commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) effective upon Commissioner Ron Jackson’s retirement in January. Matt Arthur, current director for education reform for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, will serve as deputy commissioner of TCSG. Dr. Susan Andrews, current deputy superintendent of Race to the Top at the Georgia Department of Education, has been tapped to replace Arthur.

Deal also nominated Tricia Chastain, current associate vice-president for government relations for the University of Georgia, pending board approval, as president of the Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC). Chastain will replace Tracy Ireland, who has taken a position with the University System of Georgia as vice-chancellor of student enrollment services effective in January. Toby Carr, current planning director of the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), will replace Chastain with the University System of Georgia as the associate vice-president for government relations and director of state government relations.

State Senator John Albers (R-Roswell) is working on legislation to move local schools toward digital learning. From the Associated Press:

State Sen. John Albers, a Roswell Republican, said the details of his bill are still in the works but pledged not to force local school districts to cover all costs of moving to digital materials.

Educators across the country are moving toward classrooms based around technology, and the Obama administration this week committed more funding to expand high-speed Internet access and pledged to connect 99 percent of students through their school or library.

That could help solve one of the biggest problems for districts adopting digital materials — access. Students need the material both at school and at home. If a community doesn’t have reliable Internet access, making the switch doesn’t benefit students equally, said Doug Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Director Association.

Albers wants school districts to decide the best way for kids to use those materials. Other states have opted for a variety of laptops or tablets. Albers said he hopes to introduce the bill early in 2015.

“We need to have a goal,” he said. “Technology can prepare out students for the business world, but it’s also the great equalizer whether you live in a suburban, urban or rural environment.”

Rep. Terry England, chair of the Georgia House’s appropriations committee, said he hasn’t heard any discussion of how much Albers’ proposal would cost or what the state could afford. England said many lawmakers agree digital materials have advantages but district officials will need time to phase out textbooks and upgrade their building technology.

Five candidates have qualified for the Special Election for State House District 50, which will be held January 6, 2014.

Christine A. Austin
Party: Libertarian
Email: christine.austin@comcast.net
Age: 44
Occupation: Homemaker

Bradford Jay Raffensperger
Party: Republican
Email: brad@bradforgeorgia.com
Age: 59
Johns Creek, GA 30022
Occupation: Licensed Professional Engineer
Website: www.bradforgeorgia.com

Royce M. Reinecke
Party: Republican
Email: Roycereinecke@gmail.com
Age: 62
Johns Creek, GA 30022
Occupation: Engineer/Retired

Kelly Leigh Stewart
Party: Republican
Email: kelly@electkellystewart.com
Age: 48
Johns Creek, GA 30097
Occupation: Self Employed
Website: www.electkellystewart.com

Paul Troop
Email: PMTROOP@gmail.com
Age: 72
Johns Creek, GA 30022
Occupation: Retired Journalist/PR Executive

Cobb County Commissioners are considering a tax abatement district to spur new development along Austell-Powder Springs Road.

Gwinnett County Chief Magistrate Judge Kristina Blum and Magistrate Judge Robert Mitchum received an award from the Georgia Institute of Continuing Judicial Education (ICJE) for their work teaching magistrate continuing education courses.

Youth at Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center, working with the Humane Society of Northwest Georgia, have trained two dogs as certified “Canine Good Citizens” to make the dogs more adoptable and help the kids learn life skills for when they’re released.

It encourages good behavior, and it does teach life skills like compassion and patience,” [Chrissy Kaczynski, an animal program coordinator for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice] said. “It is a way for students to learn, even if they aren’t realizing it.”

Kelly Lewis, also an animal program coordinator, said, “It also helps to alleviate depression and those kinds of issues that we sometimes see. We have kids, a lot of times, that are able to satisfy a need to connect thanks to the dogs.”

Dalton Mayor Dennis Mock was among a number of individuals who spoke Monday, praising both the program and the efforts of the youth.

“Through this program and the positive collaboration, we are doing something special,” he said. “This program provides enrichment not only for the children but for the animals involved. The lessons learned here will increase the students’ ability to care for others, be more in-tune with their emotions, boost self-confidence, and let them know that they can achieve their goals. I don’t think we can ask for anything more than that.”

Georgia Power has launched an incentive program for electric vehicle charging stations.

It’s a two-year program that provides businesses with a $500 rebate for installing 240-volt Level 2 chargers. The utility wants to promote the increased use of electric vehicles.

“We believe that consumer reluctance to use EVs is largely tied to a lack of awareness and uncertainty as to the availability of charging options,” said Amy Fink, a spokesman for Georgia Power.

The pilot program, Fink said, is designed to address both of these barriers through public education, supporting community charging stations for public use, enhancing charging options at select Georgia Power facilities and offering rebates for residential customers who install EV chargers at their homes.

Georgia Power calls the state exceptionally friendly for electric vehicles and said that Atlanta is the No. 2 market in the nation for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Officials in Muscogee County went to court seeking the restoration of their taxpayer-funded debit cards.

Lawyers for Marshal Greg Countryman and Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Bishop did not get the temporary restraining order they sought Monday in Superior Court that would have restored their city-issued credit cards.

Stone Mountain Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller ruled that there was no emergency that would impel him to force the city to restore their cards. But their cards could be restored at some point, should he rule in favor of that.

Fuller was appointed to hear the cases of four elected officials against the city because of conflicts of interest with Muscogee Superior Court judges, Countryman’s and Bishop’s credit card privileges were suspended when the city learned that they had used them to retain attorneys to sue the city.

Through their attorneys, Countryman and Bishop have held that they were forced into using their city credit cards to retain legal counsel because the city refused to allow them to use funds from their budgets to do so.

Attorney Chris Balcher repeated a version of that in court Monday. He told Fuller that his clients felt that they needed outside counsel because information and advice they were getting from City Attorney Clifton Fay was inaccurate.

State Rep. James Beverly (D-Macon) has been accused of fraud and deceit in a lawsuit over a building that has been demolished.

D&D Middle GA LLC, owned by Dunkin’ Donuts entrepreneur Lou Patel, says in the lawsuit that Patel bought the Douglass House only because Beverly promised to get it moved within 60 days. Efforts to move the house crumbled even in the wake of the demolition of Tremont Temple Baptist Church, which was razed earlier this year to clear the way for the doughnut shop. The property is across from the Medical Center, Navicent Health, on Pine Street.

According to the lawsuit filed in Bibb County Superior Court, Beverly, a Macon Democrat, had a “scheme to fraudulently induce” Patel to buy the house that included him making promises on behalf of the Macon-Bibb Community Enhancement Authority and saying he had the money to move the house this past summer.

“(Beverly) well knew when he made the aforesaid representations that they were false and that (Patel) intended to purchase the Property in reliance upon said false representations,” the lawsuit said.

Beverly said Monday he had not been served a copy of the lawsuit. When The Telegraph told him about it, he searched for words, then repeated the word “wow” three times.

Former Savannah-Chatham police chief Willie Lovett was convicted of federal charges of commercial gambling and conspiring with an admitted gambler and others to obstruct enforcement of criminal laws.

The jury of nine women and three men also convicted Lovett on two extortion charges and two charges of making false statements to FBI agents.

The jurors acquitted Lovett of three extortion counts.

Lovett was on trial on charges he protected an ongoing commercial gambling operation from law enforcement for more than 10 years. He also was charged with extortion and making false statements to FBI agents during a subsequent investigation.

The indictment charged that during the time of the alleged offenses Lovett was a major and then police chief with the Savannah-Chatham police department.

Lovett pleaded not guilty.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed suspended Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran for his opinions about homosexuality.

Mayor Kasim Reed’s spokeswoman Anne Torres said the administration didn’t know about “Who Told You That You Are Naked?” until employees came forward with complaints last week. In addition to suspending Cochran, Reed’s office has now opened an investigation to determine whether the chief discriminated against employees.

Cochran has been ordered to undergo sensitivity training and barred from distributing copies of the book on city property after a number of firefighters said they received them in the workplace, Torres said.

That [Cochran] also identifies himself as Atlanta’s fire chief that city leaders say is most problematic.

District 6 Councilmember Alex Wan, who is openly gay, said he’s concerned Cochran’s book could create a hostile work environment. He and others say while Cochran is free to express his personal views, they should be left outside the office.

Transportation

Drive safely this weekend – the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety says Thanksgiving can be dangerous on the roads.

Officials from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety are urging drivers to be careful and to use seatbelts during the holiday travel period.

Officials say 20 people died during crashes during the Thanksgiving travel period in 2013, which ran from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1.

Authorities say the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that using a seatbelt can cut the risk of fatalities among front seat passengers in traffic accidents by about 45 percent and can cut the risk of moderate to serious injury by 50 percent.

Officials say law enforcement throughout the state will be watching for drivers who aren’t using seatbelts during the holiday travel period and a “Click it or Ticket” campaign will continue through Nov. 30.

A private company will redevelop an industrial site as a port at St Marys, Georgia in Camden County.

A New York-based company announced plans Thursday to acquire the former Durango-Georgia Paper Co. site from federal bankruptcy court and develop the site as a port.

Worldwide Group and Knights of the Green Shield, in a prepared statement, is calling the development the Port of St. Marys Industrial and Logistics Center.

James Coughlin, director of the Camden County Joint Development Authority, said the mill site’s trustee introduced him to an investment firm three weeks ago that was interested in seeing how the mill site, which is mostly demolished, could be developed.

The selling points for the 500-acre site are it has about 5,000 linear feet of mostly deep-water access along the North River and a railroad line that runs to the site and it is close to Interstate 95.

A former wood treatment plant near the Port of Savannah will be redeveloped for resale as a port-related facility.

A St. Louis-based redevelopment company has bought a 58-acre polluted site — known as a brownfield property — at the Port of Savannah, with plans to clean it up and market it.

Commercial Development Co. Inc., which specializes in the redevelopment of brownfield sites, announced Monday it has acquired the environmentally distressed waterfront industrial site from Atlantic Wood Industries.

Existing structures on the property will be demolished to clear the way for a new port-related redevelopment that will put this blighted site back into productive use, according to the news release.

“We are excited to expand our redevelopment efforts into the Savannah area,” said Mark Hinds, executive vice president of new business development at Environmental Liability Transfer. “Our acquisition and environmental liability assumption of this large deep-water port is the first step to repurposing this property and moving it back into productive use.

“The Savannah market is already in a growth phase, and we are eager to see the environmental and economic benefits this transaction brings to the area.”

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Adoptable Georgia Dogs for November 25, 2014 http://gapundit.com/2014/11/25/adoptable-georgia-dogs-november-25-2014/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=adoptable-georgia-dogs-november-25-2014 http://gapundit.com/2014/11/25/adoptable-georgia-dogs-november-25-2014/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 10:39:26 +0000 http://gapundit.com/?p=46293 GaPundit:

This guy is named “Beast,” but he’s a sweetheart. […]

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Beast

This guy is named “Beast,” but he’s a sweetheart. He’s become the favorite of several staff members who are begging for a home for him – he’s been adopted out and returned several times, for things like chasing the family cat – not necessarily his fault, but a bad home match. See how sweet and playful he is in his video below. He’s not as big as he looks in the photo above. He needs to be out of the shelter before 4 PM today. We’re praying for a Thanksgiving miracle for this guy. Call the Shelter for more information 770-339-3200 or email jaclyn.nguyen@gwinnettcounty.com.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Number 42884 here is listed as a Shepherd, but I think he’s got even more hound dog in him. In fact, I think he’s probably a cousin to my hound dog Dolly. He was surrendered by his owner and is friendly and playful. Call the Shelter for more information 770-339-3200.

Basset42928

Number 42928 is a female Basset Hound who is friendly and ready to go to a new home; she is available for adoption from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

42441

42441 is a sweet little medium-sized female terrier mix who is ready for a new home and available for adoption from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

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Sen. Jack Hill: Georgia’s “Rainy Day Fund” http://gapundit.com/2014/11/24/46279/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=46279 http://gapundit.com/2014/11/24/46279/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 00:03:04 +0000 http://gapundit.com/?p=46279 GaPundit:

Your Georgia Desk From Senator Jack Hill  NOTES FROM TH […]

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GaPundit:

Your Georgia Desk

From Senator Jack Hill

Jack Hill 1

 NOTES FROM THE SENATE

GEORGIA’S “RAINY DAY FUND”
The Revenue Shortfall Reserve (RSR), or the “rainy day fund” serves important purposes in the state government.  It is a contributing factor in Georgia being able to maintain its perfect triple AAA bond rating, and it also has helped the state ride out declines in revenues from time to time.  Of course, the reserve was wiped out during the recent recession. .  As the economy has continued to improve, the State has begun to restore the RSR to its previous levels.  A State’s RSR goes a long way towards showing how good a steward a state is over its own money.  This week we will take a look at Georgia’s experience with its rainy day fund, as well other states’ struggles and successes with their versions of the RSR.
RSR HISTORY
The Georgia General Assembly passed legislation in 1976 creating the RSR, and establishing that it should be maintained at a level of at least 4% of the net revenue of the preceding fiscal year.  According to O.C.G.A. 45-12-93, the amount of all surplus state funds existing at the end of each fiscal year are reserved and added to the RSR.  The Governor may appropriate RSR funds up to 1% of net revenue collections of the preceding year for funding K-12 enrollment gains.  The Governor may also release a stated amount of RSR funds to be appropriated by the General Assembly, and RSR funds may also be used to cover contractually obligated deficits if the state’s obligations exceed net revenues.  Under recent changes to state law, the RSR’s limit was raised to   would be enough to fund the state government for about 15 days.
USE OF THE RSR
 
The RSR in Georgia has ranged over time from 1% as a total of net revenue in various years to a high of 8.58% in 2007.  In 2007, the RSR stood at an all-time high of almost $1.8 billion, but by 2010, as the recession raged on, the reserve fell to $268 million eventually to $50 million.  From 2007 to 2010 the state’s RSR decreased by almost 85%.  Georgia’s RSR has helped the state in multiple economic downturns, the most recent being the recession of 2008-2013.  The RSR was also utilized during a time of declining revenues in the early 1990s and the early 2000s.  However, after each downturn the state has been vigilant in building back its reserve.  The importance of this was borne out in the economic downturn.  If the state had not built up the RSR after the early 2000’s, its financial standing would have been even worse than it was.  From 2007 to 2008, the state used more of its RSR than it had in total in 2004. That alone shows how important it is for the state to maintain a viable rainy day fund.  Some other states were not as prepared as Georgia when revenues plummeted.  The PEW Research Center estimates that nationally, states had $59.9 billion in reserves in 2008, but the aggregate national budget shortfall was $117.3 billion in 2009.  Due in part to Georgia’s RSR, the state was able to help cover budget gaps without resorting to raising taxes, like other states.
OTHER STATES’ RESERVES
As of July 2014, 46 out of the 50 states have some sort of budget stabilization fund, and 20 other state’s funds are based on surpluses.  Other states use methods that range from an appropriation to funds linked to revenue growth; but the most popular model is the surplus-based fund used by Georgia. Some of the reasons other states use different types of funds can be chalked up to different economic realities.  Some states face more volatile revenue streams than Georgia, and so therefore try and find ways to model their version of the RSR to best fit their state’s revenue sources.  Georgia does not tie its RSR to revenue volatility.  PEW ranked Georgia as having the 21st most volatile revenue stream coming in at 6%, which compared to some other states such as Alaska which experiences revenue volatility over 34%, is somewhat predictable.

 

 

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Rep. Rob Woodall – Washington Watch: Executive Overreach http://gapundit.com/2014/11/24/rep-rob-woodall-washington-watch-executive-overreach/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rep-rob-woodall-washington-watch-executive-overreach http://gapundit.com/2014/11/24/rep-rob-woodall-washington-watch-executive-overreach/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 23:52:46 +0000 http://gapundit.com/?p=46276 GaPundit:

Your Washington GA – 7 Desk From Congressman Rob […]

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GaPundit:

Your Washington GA – 7 Desk

From Congressman Rob Woodall

wash wash

 

Washington Watch: Executive Overreach

Happy Thanksgiving

I want to begin this week wishing you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving.  Millions of people are travelling the country this week, returning home to share this uniquely American holiday with their friends and families and giving thanks for all of our blessings…READ MORE.

President Obama Proposes Unilateral Action on Immigration

Whether you identify yourself as a liberal Democrat, a conservative Republican, or anything in between, the President’s actions should trouble you as much as they trouble me…READ MORE.

House Supports Quality Scientific Research at the EPA

During a recent visit with my friends at the Georgia EMC, they shared that one of their biggest concerns about new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations is the detrimental effect they will have on ratepayers’ energy bills…READ MORE.

Supporting the FairTax in Washington, D.C.

On Monday, I had the privilege of advocating on behalf of the FairTax at the Heritage Foundation’s tax reform roundtableREAD MORE

Health Insurance Premiums Will Increase In Gwinnett and Forsyth Counties

When President Obama was campaigning for the White House in 2007, he famously stated that his health insurance bill would “cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.” READ MORE.

Sincerely,

Member of Congress

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Sen. Johnny Isakson: Presses Army Secretary on “Grave Concern” Over Retirement Benefits http://gapundit.com/2014/11/24/sen-johnny-isakson-presses-army-secretary-grave-concern-retirement-benefits/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sen-johnny-isakson-presses-army-secretary-grave-concern-retirement-benefits http://gapundit.com/2014/11/24/sen-johnny-isakson-presses-army-secretary-grave-concern-retirement-benefits/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 23:45:36 +0000 http://gapundit.com/?p=46274 GaPundit:

Your Washington Desk From Senator Johnny Isakson Isakso […]

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GaPundit:

Your Washington Desk

From Senator Johnny Isakson

Isakson 2

Isakson, Murray Lead Bipartisan Letter Pressing Army Secretary on “Grave Concern” Over Retirement Benefits

 In letter to Army Secretary McHugh, senators call for immediate reversal of policy forcing officers to retire at highest enlisted rank

 Current policy results in significant decrease in lifetime retirement benefits, for some as much as $1,000 per month or more

This week, U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., led a bipartisan group of colleagues in sending a letter to U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh over the Army’s treatment of a significant number of captains and majors who are former non-commissioned officers and are being forced to retire at their highest previous enlisted rank.

The senators are seeking answers about the Army’s use of Enhanced-Selective Early Retirement Boards (E-SERB), which will result in a significant decrease in lifetime retirement benefits for the impacted soldiers, for some as much as $1,000 per month or more, or just over $1 million over a 40 year retirement in the case of a captain forced to retire as a sergeant first class.

“These former non-commissioned officers answered the Army’s call for volunteers to attend Officer Candidate School as the Army expanded its officer corps to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, despite having served for years as commissioned officers and rising through the ranks to become captains and majors, these dedicated soldiers will soon be forced to retire at their highest previous enlisted rank,” the senators wrote in their letter. “To demote these soldiers in retirement is an injustice that devalues their service and will materially disadvantage them and their families for the rest of their lives… We strongly urge you to take the necessary steps to rectify this situation in order to allow these soldiers to retire at the rank they have earned and appropriately honor their service to our nation.”

Under current law a soldier must serve at least eight years of active service as a commissioned officer in order to retire as a commissioned officer. Soldiers who serve 20 years total, but less than eight years as commissioned officers are retired at their highest enlisted rank.  During the “Grow the Army” effort, the Army dramatically increased the number of officers commissioned via its Officer Candidate School (OCS). The Army expanded to a post 9/11 peak of 570,000 soldiers in 2010 and is currently executing an aggressive end strength reduction designed to shrink the Army to 450,000 soldiers. Many of those OCS graduates are now being forced to retire through the E-SERB process as the Army shrinks.

Officers with more than 18 years active service are screened by E-SERB and those selected will be forced to retire on the first day of the month following the month they reach 20 years of service. These former non-commissioned officers stepped up and volunteered for OCS at a time the Army badly needed officers and served honorably for between 6 and 7 years. Now, many are being retired at enlisted ranks they have not held in years. This is particularly disturbing because had they ignored the Army’s call for officers most would have been promoted at least once more and been eligible to retire at a higher enlisted rank.

Senators Isakson and Murray were joined in sending the letter by: Senators Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Mike Johanns, R-Neb., Tim Johnson, D-SD, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH.

Read a one-page summary of the issue here.

The full text of the letter is below:

November 19, 2014

The Honorable John McHugh

Secretary of the Army

101 Army Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301-0101

Dear Secretary McHugh:

We write to express our grave concern over the Army’s treatment of a significant number of Army captains and majors who are former non-commissioned officers. These former non-commissioned officers answered the Army’s call for volunteers to attend Officer Candidate School as the Army expanded its officer corps to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, despite having served for years as commissioned officers and rising through the ranks to become captains and majors, these dedicated soldiers will soon be forced to retire at their highest previous enlisted rank.  This will result in a significant decrease in lifetime retirement benefits for the impacted soldiers, approximately $1,000 per month or just over $1 million over a 40 year retirement in the case of a captain forced to retire as a sergeant first class. This is simply unacceptable.

These former non-commissioned officers have been placed in this untenable position as a result of the Army’s use of Enhanced-Selective Early Retirement Boards (E-SERB). Officers selected by the boards are forced to retire as soon as they reach 20 years of service. Unfortunately, under current law a soldier must serve at least 8 years of active service as a commissioned officer in order to retire as a commissioned officer. Soldiers who serve 20 years total, but less than 8 years as commissioned officers are retired at their highest enlisted rank. While this requirement makes sense in the case of soldiers who choose to retire, are passed over for multiple promotions, or are forced to retire due to misconduct, none of those cases applies to the soldiers in question. On the contrary, Army Human Resources Command has explicitly acknowledged that E-SERB will separate fully qualified officers “who have rendered quality service to the nation.” To demote these soldiers in retirement is an injustice that devalues their service and will materially disadvantage them and their families for the rest of their lives.

Rather than forcing these officers to retire as soon as they reach 20 years of service, the Army could modify its E-SERB policy to delay the mandatory retirement date of affected soldiers until the first month after they become eligible to retire as commissioned officers. For many of the affected soldiers this would extend their time in service by only a few months. We strongly urge you to take the necessary steps to rectify this situation in order to allow these soldiers to retire at the rank they have earned and appropriately honor their service to our nation.

Sincerely,

Patty Murray

United States Senator

Johnny Isakson

United States Senator

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Sen. Johnny Isakson: Statement on Resignation of Defense Secretary Hagel http://gapundit.com/2014/11/24/se-johnny-isakson-statement-resignation-defense-secretary-hagel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=se-johnny-isakson-statement-resignation-defense-secretary-hagel http://gapundit.com/2014/11/24/se-johnny-isakson-statement-resignation-defense-secretary-hagel/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 23:38:56 +0000 http://gapundit.com/?p=46270 GaPundit:

Your Washington Desk From Senator Johnny Isakson  Isaks […]

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Your Washington Desk

From Senator Johnny Isakson 

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Isakson Statement on Resignation of Defense Secretary Hagel

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., issued the following statement regarding the resignation of U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel:

“Whether a resignation or a firing of Secretary Hagel, this decision reflects the uncertainty of this administration as it relates to foreign policy in general, and in particular the destruction of ISIS. Given the crisis with ISIS, along with situations of unrest in the Ukraine, Iran, and west Africa, this president and his administration need to send a clear message of strength and commitment.”

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Gov. Deal makes new appointments, shuffles staff leadership http://gapundit.com/2014/11/24/gov-deal-makes-new-appointments-shuffles-staff-leadership/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gov-deal-makes-new-appointments-shuffles-staff-leadership http://gapundit.com/2014/11/24/gov-deal-makes-new-appointments-shuffles-staff-leadership/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 22:53:18 +0000 http://gapundit.com/?p=46268 GaPundit:

Deal appoints individuals to serve in public safety, ed […]

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Deal appoints individuals to serve in public safety, education, family services and community affairs

Gov. Nathan Deal today announced appointments to positions of leadership in various state government roles.

Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth will become the director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) effective in January. Butterworth will replace Charley English, who will assume the position of deputy director of GEMA. The governor has also tapped Brig. Gen. Joe Jarrard, current assistant adjutant general of the Georgia Department of Defense, to serve as the adjutant general of Georgia effective in January.

Camila Knowles, current chief of staff for U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, has been nominated, pending board approval, to be the commissioner for the Department of Community Affairs effective in January. Knowles is replacing Gretchen Corbin, who has been nominated by Deal, pending board approval, as the commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) effective upon Commissioner Ron Jackson’s retirement in January. Matt Arthur, current director for education reform for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, will serve as deputy commissioner of TCSG. Dr. Susan Andrews, current deputy superintendent of Race to the Top at the Georgia Department of Education, has been tapped to replace Arthur.

Deal also nominated Tricia Chastain, current associate vice-president for government relations for the University of Georgia, pending board approval, as president of the Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC). Chastain will replace Tracy Ireland, who has taken a position with the University System of Georgia as vice-chancellor of student enrollment services effective in January. Toby Carr, current planning director of the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), will replace Chastain with the University System of Georgia as the associate vice-president for government relations and director of state government relations. Corinna Robinson, current Disability Services Ombudsman and Olmstead Coordinator for Deal, has been appointed to be the executive director of the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission. Robinson is replacing Bill Crews, who will be retiring on December 31.

Christopher Tomlinson, current executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) has been nominated by Deal, pending board approval, to serve as the executive director of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority in addition to his duties at SRTA. Russell McMurry, presently serving as chief engineer at GDOT, has been appointed as planning director of GDOT subject to approval by a majority vote of both the House Transportation Committee and the Senate Transportation Committee.

Amy Jacobs, interim director of the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), and Bobby Cagle, interim director of the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), will remain in their positions full-time effective immediately. To streamline the review process and efficiently evaluate recommendations, DFCS will continue to report directly to the Governor’s Office.

“Each of these high caliber individuals has contributed their expertise and counsel in order to make Georgia a better place to live, work and raise a family,” said Deal. “As they assume their new positions and responsibilities, I’m confident that they will continue to serve our state well. I cannot thank them enough for service and dedication to Georgia and its citizens.”

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State Sen. Curt Thompson pre-files Medical Marijuana Bill http://gapundit.com/2014/11/24/state-sen-curt-thompson-pre-files-medical-marijuana-bill/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=state-sen-curt-thompson-pre-files-medical-marijuana-bill http://gapundit.com/2014/11/24/state-sen-curt-thompson-pre-files-medical-marijuana-bill/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 19:49:35 +0000 http://gapundit.com/?p=46266 GaPundit:

Atlanta, Ga. – November 24, 2014 – Georgia […]

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Atlanta, Ga. – November 24, 2014 – Georgia State Senator Curt Thompson (D-Norcoss) today pre-filed legislation that would legalize medical marijuana, along with a separate measure that would legalize and regulate marijuana retail sales to adults.

“Few would disagree that physicians need every good tool in their medical toolbox to provide the best health care possible to their patients. Whether that tool is a new diagnostic test, a new antibiotic or a form of proven pain reliever, doctors need the ability to provide the best possible short and long-term health care for their patients, SB 7 is designed to do just that,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s SB 7 would allow doctors to proscribe marijuana of up to two ounces for specific debilitating medical conditions, including: cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis-C, ALS, Chrone’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and chronic or debilitating condition that cause Cachexia (wasting syndrome), severe and chronic pain, severe nausea and seizures/muscle spasms from epilepsy or MS. SB 7 also includes a number of common sense limitations and guardrails for dispensing the drug. Marijuana, like any other prescription drug, would be regulated.

In addition, Thompson has filed SR 6 to advance the conversation of marijuana use. This constitutional amendment, if approved by voters, would legalize, regulate and tax the sale of retail marijuana through licensed establishments. The tax collections would be constitutionally earmarked for education and transportation infrastructure. Many other states have passed similar measures.

Thompson said the retail marijuana would co-exist with, not replace, medical marijuana. SB 7 includes lengthy requirements about licensing facilities, excise taxes and fees, the creation of a state authority to regulate the sales. SR 6, while separate from medical marijuana treatment, puts the discussion of retail marijuana regulation and taxation on the table.
Thompson said SR 6 provides an opportunity to regulate sales and to make available another revenue stream without raising existing taxes.

“During the 2015 legislative session, we will have the opportunity to provide our doctors with an additional tool by legalizing marijuana for medical use. This past summer, a joint study committee examined the options for legalizing marijuana and, already, three bi-partisan bills have been filed,” said Thompson. “Our discussions of marijuana in Georgia – in its many forms – have been largely limited to children’s health. While I adamantly support cannabis oil treatments for children with severe medical problems, I believe physicians should have the ability to care for all of their patients, regardless of age. SB 7 would provide doctors another tool for care and treatment.”

Thompson said Georgians will be hearing a great deal about these issues in the coming months and citizens deserve no less than a full exploration and debate by their elected officials.

“I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to advance the discussion of marijuana use and regulation and finding the best possible solution for Georgians,” he said.

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Final transportation committee meeting yields few new clues | www.myajc.com http://gapundit.com/2014/11/24/final-transportation-committee-meeting-yields-few-new-clues-www-myajc-com/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=final-transportation-committee-meeting-yields-few-new-clues-www-myajc-com http://gapundit.com/2014/11/24/final-transportation-committee-meeting-yields-few-new-clues-www-myajc-com/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:45:15 +0000 http://gapundit.com/?p=46259 GaPundit:

ROME — The hard part now begins for lawmakers and other […]

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ROME — The hard part now begins for lawmakers and others who have spent the past four months studying ways to find an extra $1 billion or more each year to pay for Georgia’s growing transportation infrastructure needs.

The panel has traveled the state, holding eight public hearings, but now it must actually produce a set of recommendations that leaders of the House and Senate have promised will be “significant” and “bold.” Legislation that created the Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding set a Nov. 30 deadline for the panel to submit recommendations to the General Assembly.

While there were few clues given at Thursday’s final committee meeting, panelists heard a variety of concerns and suggestions, especially about the growing impact that hybrid and electric vehicles have on the state’s bottom line. The more fuel-efficient the car, the less gasoline is purchased. The less gasoline purchased means the less collected in gas taxes for transportation projects.

“All of these new types of vehicles are coming on the market, and we as a state and a country are offering tax incentives for people to buy them on one hand,” Rome City Commissioner Buzz Wachsteter said. “But on the other hand, what are we doing? We’re taking away the revenue that was being produced by conventional vehicles that use motor fuel to provide revenue.”

Panelists appeared particularly interested Thursday in a presentation from Virginia transportation executive Nick Donahue, who detailed how his state paid for $1.9 billion in improvements to the Beltway around Washington. Through aggressive bond sales to public-private partnerships that left private firms in charge of toll collection, Virginia added two extra toll lanes going each way on I-495 around the nation’s capital, Donahue said.

via Final transportation committee meeting yields few new clues | www.myajc.com.

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