The former executive director of the state’s judicial watchdog agency, who resigned three weeks ago, won’t voluntarily appear before a special legislative committee investigating the agency and has notified lawmakers that he will fight any subpoena to compel his attendance.
In a five-page letter sent Friday, Mark Dehler said he had “serious concerns” about the investigation into the Judicial Qualifications Commission convened by the Judiciary Committee of the state House of Representatives.
Weekly hearings scheduled to begin this Thursday before a special panel of lawmakers violate the Georgia Constitution’s separation of powers mandate, Dehler stated in the letter to state Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, the Judiciary Committee chairman. Dehler’s letter was in response to a phone call from Willard asking him to appear voluntarily before the seven-member House “study committee.”
“I believe a committee of the House of Representatives has no authority to investigate the actions or operations of the JQC or any other unit of the judicial branch of state government,” Dehler wrote. The former director also informed Willard that he does not believe the legislator has legal authority to subpoena him.
With a practice that focuses on government and governmental entities, Robert Highsmith was a strong candidate for the position of outside general counsel to MARTA. And the fact that he’s a lifelong Georgian who cares deeply about the future of Atlanta and the metro transit system’s role in shaping it just sealed the deal.
“It’s a very exciting time for MARTA and a very exciting thing to be a part of,” Highsmith says. “It’s an extremely fulfilling role to be able to support [the board] as MARTA undertakes this historic expansion.”
“Robert has a wealth of experience in the public policy setting. He has been involved in Georgia and Atlanta politics for a long time, and we thought that was valuable to us as we look to the next decade or two of MARTA’s existence,” MARTA board chairman Robbie Ashe says of the body’s decision to name Highsmith to the outside GC post.
GEORGIA ATTORNEY GENERAL SAM OLENS ENDORSES MEAGAN HANSON FOR STATE REPRESENTATIVE OF HOUSE DISTRICT 80
Brookhaven, Georgia – Meagan Hanson, Republican candidate for Georgia House District 80, announced she received the endorsement of Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.
“I’m proud to offer my full endorsement to Meagan Hanson in House District 80. Meagan will be a tenacious advocate for all Georgians, not just a select group of outsiders interested in propping up backbenchers. I know Meagan’s heart and loyalties rest in her district and with her neighbors above all else,” said Olens.Continue Reading..
Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who has spent decades surveying Southern voters and worked for Trump’s primary rival Marco Rubio, agreed. Particularly worrisome, he said, is Trump’s lagging support among college-educated white voters — especially women — who abound in the sprawling suburbs ringing Atlanta.
Obama lost here by 5 percentage points in 2008, a surprisingly close finish since he essentially ceded the state after Labor Day. In 2012, the president didn’t even bother competing — his campaign had two staffers, one steering volunteers to North Carolina and the other to Florida — and lost by 7 points.
In political terms, the calculus is simple as black and white: The higher the African American turnout and the degree of black support, the fewer white votes Clinton needs to win.
Blacks comprise about 30% of the electorate here, and Clinton can probably count on 90% or more support from them; Obama won 98% of the African American vote in 2008 and upwards of 95% in 2012.
If Clinton could match Obama’s 2012 performance, and black turnout were high enough, she could eke out a victory by winning as few as 1 in 4 whites votes. (Though even that may be a reach; in 2008 Obama received only 23%.)
Michael P. Boggs
Elizabeth “Lisa” Branch
John J. Ellington
Carla Wong McMillan
Nels S.D. Peterson
M. Yvette Miller
William M. Ray, II
My best guess, based on Gov. Deal’s past appointments, is that at least one of those appellate judges will be elevated to the Supreme Court. I would also think that the leading candidates for any Court of Appeals judgeships that become open will be found among the Superior Court Judges on that short list.
While you’re at it, add the Cherokee County board of Education to the list of districts opposing the OSD amendment.
The Cherokee County School Board unanimously approved a resolution Thursday to oppose a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to take control of failing schools.
The plan to create an Opportunity School District, introduced during the 2015 legislative session, would allow the state to take over failing schools from local districts and is set to go before voters as a referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan would create a statewide school district and give his office broad powers to take over failing schools. According to the plan, persistently failing schools are defined as those scoring below 60 on the Georgia Department of Education’s accountability measure, the College and Career Performance Index, for three consecutive years.
“For the last number of months, the staff has created seven reasons why the opportunity school district is not good for Cherokee County taxpayers and students,” [Cherokee County Board of Education Chair Kyla] Cromer said. “I do want to highlight the biggest part of this…as a member of the school board we are to protect the children of this county. I have not seen any proven evidence that this is good for the children of this county and that is the No. 1 reason why I wanted to make sure we adopted a resolution opposing the Opportunity School District.”
The seven facts presented said that OSD represents a loss of local control, is a redundant state-directed push for reform, represents minimal transparency, is a path to privatization, is a poor model for achievement, creates instability in struggling schools and is based on a faulty barometer of achievement.
Board members also raised concerns that the amendment would take local control, as it removes the oversight of the locally elected school board and would seize assets communities have voted to fund through sales tax collections.
Local control is a great thing, but it has occasionally gone wrong, with taxpayers picking up the tab for the mistakes of politicians.
This city of 32,000 just south of Richmond is facing a financial crisis unusual for fiscally conservative Virginia — or any state. In at least the past four years, the city spent all of its reserves and then kept spending money it didn’t have. It took out short-term loans based on anticipated tax revenue to keep paying bills.
When the loans ran out, it stopped paying. Some fire and rescue equipment has been repossessed. The city trash hauler is threatening to stop pickup. And lenders will not give Petersburg any more loans.
The previous city manager oversaw the construction of a $12.7 million public library and, early this year, had the council considering plans to replace the 1856 city hall with an $18 million complex. It all unraveled, however, after a problem with water meters.
The city had, basically, three strikes against it: It had a roughly $12 million shortfall in its operating budget, had spent all its reserves and had at least $14 million in unpaid bills. It would be unable to make payroll by the end of the year.
“We’re in a bad way,” Commission Chairman Ken Fowler told about a dozen people gathered at the courthouse, which was supposed to be closed for the holiday. “Apparently we spent 3 million more dollars than we took in.”
Fowler briefed the small audience on the Georgia Regional Commission’s audit of spending that shows nearly $7.2 million spent in Fiscal Year 2015 in a county that brings in about $4 million a year, county manager Garner Mercer said.
Through August of this year, the county already has shelled out nearly $4.5 million and will end September more than $200,000 in the red, if action is not taken.
“To address this financial situation, we’re going to have to make some cuts, and I’m talking about some drastic cuts,” Fowler said. “We need to start today, we don’t need to wait until tomorrow.”
State Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, sat on the back row during the meeting that turned into an open forum.
“My concern is it’s nothing that happened yesterday that caused today’s realization of where we are,” Epps said. “It’s not our job at the state level to micromanage. We’re there to respond to their request for help.”
“I am not in favor of abolishing the JQC and placing this in the hands of the legislature,” said Floyd County Superior Court Judge Tami Colston.
Colston is concerned the legislative proposal will upset the separation of powers between the three branches of government.
“It’s dangerous,” Colston continued. “It could result in partisan politics coming into play if certain groups want to get rid of certain judges.”
State Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, a sponsor of the measure, said he and other legislators are supporting the proposal because the current JQC serves as the investigator, prosecutor and judge with no public scrutiny.
“Every committee, every commission and every agency in the state of Georgia is set up by the legislature,” Willard said in response to concerns about the separation of powers.
The Study Committee on Judicial Qualifications Commission Reform will hold its first hearing of the fall at 11 a.m. Thursday in Atlanta. The committee, which will meet for several weeks, is supposed to look into how Georgia judges get investigated.
Its chairman, state Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, believes the JQC needs to divide its responsibilities among more people. He also thinks the agency is too secretive.
JQC meetings are closed to the public. Members of the JQC also legally can’t say if a judge is under investigation. In most cases, they can’t even say what they uncovered once an investigation is closed — or whether a judge was disciplined.
“Information needs to be known,” Willard said. “It’s been sort of a closed commission for many years.”
If the constitutional amendment passes, Willard said, the Legislature next year could make changes so the JQC could be more open. Willard and other study committee members will use information that comes out this fall to shape the JQC’s future. Current and former members of the JQC are expected to testify during hearings.
Barksdale won’t say how much he’s prepared to spend fighting for Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat, but he has joked he’s a “tightwad” who wouldn’t shell out more than $20 million.
“Georgia can turn blue very easily,” Barksdale said in an interview. “The things Trump has said have been very alarming, and I don’t envy [Isakson’s] situation. He’s trying to play it in a way where he doesn’t lose Trump voters.”
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp welcomed 200 high school students to a real-life civics lesson during his student ambassador program’s kickoff Tuesday morning at Kennesaw State University.
The student ambassador program started last year with 160 students from 14 schools from across the state. The program has grown to include more than 800 students and 28 schools, Kemp said.
Kemp, who is the state’s chief elections officer, said students will develop leadership skills, learn more about state government and increase their community involvement in the program with the goal of increasing first-time voter registration.
“Even though many of you might not have had the opportunity to vote in an election yet, the ambassadors program will help engage you in the process in a meaningful way that will prepare you for future elections,” Kemp said.
Q: You’re in the middle of running for re-election. What do you think will be some of the key issues that will determine how voters are going to turn out this year?
A: We just finished having not a scientific poll, but a questionnaire, if you will, of our constituents in the 6th Congressional District, and the top three issues that they tell us are constitutional authority (and) Article 1, (national security and the economy).
There’s so much angst in this state and across the country about the usurpation of power by the administration, by the executive branch. Rules and regulations that just fly out the door without any grounding in anything the Legislative Branch has done. So the American people are just incredibly concerned about this.
Close behind that are national security — it’s a very dangerous world, and most folks don’t believe that this administration has postured and positioned the United States in a way that makes any sense in a historical standpoint or from a standpoint of allowing the nation to succeed going forward, whether it’s in national security or whether it’s in the area of economic development and expansion — and then behind that is the concern about the economy, jobs and the economy.
Speaking to a room of about 50 people, Hice described legislation he hopes to pass through Congress, his achievements as a member of congressional committees and lessons learned from time spent in Congress.
While Hice said he has been working on several pieces of legislation, he highlighted two bills in particular that he hopes to pass through Congress: the Protecting Veterans’ Educational Choice Act of 2016 and the the Track Reoffending Alien Criminals Act.
However, the congressman told students not to expect legislation to advance for the rest of the year.
“Don’t expect any major legislation to go forward for the rest of this year,” he said. “It never happens in a presidential election year.”
Republican State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) lawyered two candidates back onto the November ballotin Stewart County.
An appeal is likely after a superior court judge overruled the Stewart County Board of Elections and ordered that county commission hopeful Earl White be allowed on the November ballot, ruling that White had enough valid signatures to qualify as a candidate for the District 3 post currently held by Ernie Brown.
According to a petition filed in Stewart County Superior Court, election officials sent White a letter last month saying his petition was invalid because it only said he was running for county commission, and did not say it was for District 3.
They also nixed some individual signatures because signers did not specify which municipality they lived in, although the signers live in unincorporated areas of the county. Others were invalidated because the signers did not print their name in the order the petition form called for, even though they had both signed and printed their names.
In all, the board said 11 of White’s signatures were invalid, which left him five shy of the 32 valid signatures required. In Georgia, independent candidates must obtain signatures of 5 percent of the registered voters to get on the ballot.
On Wednesday, Chattahoochee County Senior Superior Court Judge John Allen, sitting by appointment, ruled that White should be allowed on the ballot. After that ruling, the board dropped its efforts to disqualify another petitioner, Canady “Tony” Matthews, who is hoping to run for the post of retiring Superior Court Clerk Patti Smith.
The board had invalidated 51 of Matthews’ signatures, most of them for the same reasons. Matthews was left two votes shy of the 134 signatures he needed.
“I’m proud to offer my full endorsement to Meagan Hanson in House District 80. Meagan will be a tenacious advocate for all Georgians, not just a select group of outsiders interested in propping up backbenchers. I know Meagan’s heart and loyalties rest in her district and with her neighbors above all else,” said Olens.
“To receive the support of such an important public servant as Attorney General Sam Olens is beyond humbling. His leadership in fighting for a limited, transparent government is an example I will follow,” Hanson said. “We don’t need a legislator controlled and funded by third party groups from outside Georgia. We need a leader who fights for our priorities and all the citizens of HD80, like Sam Olens has done for Georgia.”
Calhoun’s two-sentence letter, directed to Brig.-Gen. William Ward stated: “Sir: The fortune of war has placed Atlanta in your hands. As mayor of the city I ask protection of non-combatants and private property.”
After passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned racial discrimination in interstate commerce, the Heart of Atlanta’s owner sued the federal government, asserting that the Act was an overly broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.
The resulting decision by the United States Supreme Court upheld the Act, finding that Congress was within its authority to ban racial discrimination in businesses affecting interstate commerce.
Bullock, the University Professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia in Athens, co-authored “The Three Governors Controversy: Skullduggery, Machinations, and the Decline of Georgia’s Progressive Politics,” with Scott E. Buchanan. The book was published last year.
“The three-governor dispute of 1946 arose immediately after the death of governor-elect Eugene Talmadge in December 1946,” noted Jill Sweetapple, reference archivist for the Georgia Archives.
Bullock “will be … providing a brief overview of the claims of Ellis Arnall, Herman Talmadge and M. E. Thompson to be the governor of Georgia in 1947,” Sweetapple said. “The talk will cover the elections that led to these claims and the resolution first by the General Assembly and then, ultimately, by Georgia’s Supreme Court.”
Bullock will speak at the archives, 5800 Jonesboro Rd., Morrow. The program is part of the archives’ free Lunch and Learn lecture series and starts at noon.