Sen. Saxby Chambliss doesn’t wear out speechwriters because he’s had the same message for years: painful choices are needed to cut the federal deficit.
The Georgia Republican has other interests on Capitol Hill, certainly. As the former chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, he’s an influential voice regarding this year’s farm bill, which he opposes in its current form. That also gives him a basis for calling for revisions to the federal guest-worker program to prevent a repeat of last year’s labor shortage that was so costly to Georgia agricultural producers.
As vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Chambliss stays involved with America’s national defense. He just returned from a trip to Asia, and he’s headed out again to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“It’s pretty scary. There are lots of things that I hear that keep me up at night,” he said in a recent address to the Atlanta Press Club.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed the state’s latest criminal justice bill into law in Marietta last Thursday, and said it would help the state be “smarter on crime.” He is correct.
House Bill 349 frees judges in certain circumstances from having to impose “mandatory minimum” sentences. They’ll now be able to hand down more appropriate sentences in drug cases, for example, where the defendant in question was not the primary suspect or ringleader but previously stood to be punished as if he were.
“Public safety will be improved by giving prosecutors leverage in certain cases and by ensuring that our prison resources are reserved for the ‘kingpins’ while the ‘mules’ are given a chance at reform,” he said.
The governor noted that Georgia, which has the 10th-largest population in the country, also has the fourth-largest prison population. That’s a result of the so-called “war on drugs” and items like the “three strikes and you’re out” law passed in the 1990s that mandated life sentences for those convicted a third time for certain offenses.
Our jails are full, yes — and costly. Keeping someone behind bars costs more than $18,000 per year, and nearly five times that for juvenile offenders.
Savannah-Chatham Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Lockamy wants his 2014 budget to include cost of living and step increases for all district employees, but that may require the school board to cut costs in other places or raise the millage rate used to calculate property taxes.
Wednesday, district officials fleshed out ideas for a balanced budget that boosts employee morale and supports quality instruction, despite anticipated cuts in state and federal funding. For months they have had a dreary financial outlook, projecting that they’d face a deficit of more than $16 million because of increased costs from new start up schools and multimillion dollar reductions in state and federal funding.
Lockamy said an anticipated $20 million in state education cuts this year will occur because legislators are taking money off the top of the public schools budget to fund special education vouchers and the new state charter school commission.
“They’re getting two to three more dollars per child than I am for my babies and I’m mad about that,” Lockamy said. “The legislators are forcing local boards to tax the people.”
But Lockamy’s staff presented a budget framework using projected revenue that they say will allow them to raise employee pay for the first time in five years, invest more in school maintenance, expand athletics at new high schools, replace outdated campus police cars and fund the four locally approved charter schools. All they’ll have to do to make it happen is raise the millage rate used to calculate property taxes by 1 percent to about 16.131 mills, Lockamy said.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to sign into law a sweeping overhaul of the state’s juvenile justice system.
The governor and First Lady Sandra Deal are expected to visit the Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center in Dalton Thursday to sign the legislation. The regulations are aimed at reducing the number of repeat juvenile offenders and the costs associated with them.
A student at St. Andrews Montessori School in Macon listens as Gov. Nathan Deal prepares to sign legislation stepping up background checks for child care workers. (Photo: Adam Ragusea / GPB News)
A bill requiring stricter background checks for Georgia child care workers is now law, after Gov. Nathan Deal signed the legislation Wednesday afternoon in Macon.
Kids from St. Andrews Montessori were very excited to see the Governor’s helicopter land in the front lawn of their school. Standing on playground mulch, Deal explained why he was signing the bill drafted by Macon state Rep. Allen Peake.
“We know that while sometimes criminals may apply for jobs in these types of setting, we want to know who is being hired on our childcare facilities,” Deal said.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee and Georgia were squabbling over land in the Chattanooga region long before the Peach State realized it might want to make a run at the Tennessee River.
In fact, much of that disputed land owned by Georgia sat smack in the heart of Chattanooga’s downtown.
It was where the Chattanooga Public Library now sits, where the TVA complex stands, where the Edney Building and the Pickle Barrel anchor Market Street, where the Tallan Building and EPB’s offices rise and where Miller Park offers downtown shade and respite.
Georgia acquired the land more than a century ago when the Western & Atlantic Railroad was built to link Chattanooga with Atlanta. Georgia built the railroad and needed the property for switchyards and a terminal.
Toddy is housebroken, but cannot be left in a crate as he has anxiety. Toddy will make a wonderful pet in a home with a calm, assertive owner who understands how to be a dog’s pack leader. He prefers to be by himself, so NO other dogs or children please. Toddy would like to have an owner that can spend a lot of time with him and continue his training, as well as give him tons of exercise. Please give Toddy a chance to show you what an awesome dog he is!
The Georgia film industry just keeps growing. Last year, productions brought in about $3.1 billion (29% more than the year before). With films like The Hunger Games and five major studio developments in recent months, this year promises to be even better.
“International companies bring in around 20 percent of all new jobs created in Georgia each year,” said Deal. “The reciprocal benefits outlined in HB 475 will benefit the state’s status as a global player and reinforce Georgia’s reputation as a welcoming state.”
The Department of Drivers’ Services will oversee the reciprocity program, and the Department of Economic Development will verify that countries considered for the agreement will make, or are likely to make, a substantial economic investment in Georgia. Individuals will only qualify for the program if they have a lawful presence in the state and their home country offers similar opportunities for Georgians with a valid driver’s license.
SB 122 will permit noncitizens whose Georgia driver’s license is facing expiration, or has already expired, to request a temporary driving permit or identification card valid for an additional 120 days, given they can remain lawfully within the United States.
“Economic development is based on good relationships, and having these arrangements in place acknowledges our understanding of the challenges that often face international businesses when they come to the United States,” said Chris Cummiskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “These new laws will further encourage international businesses to consider Georgia when looking to expand in this country.”
Deal also went to St. Andrews Montessori School in Macon, where he signed House Bill 350 by State Rep. Allen Peake and others, which requires Georgia’s 6,000 child care facilities to undergo national fingerprint-based background checks for employees. Previously, only state and local background checks were required, thus allowing people with criminal backgrounds in other states to be cleared to work in Georgia child care programs.
“Georgia children are our most precious assets,” said Deal. “This legislation puts criminal checks in the hands of law enforcement agencies rather than private companies, ensuring that those processing the checks actually have the information and tools needed to protect our children.”
An employee hired after January 2014 will undergo a fingerprint-based background check, and all current child care employees must be fingerprinted no later than Jan. 1, 2017.
U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston has a message for his conservative challengers for an open Senate seat: He won’t be outflanked on the right.
In announcing Wednesday that he’s joining the race for retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ seat, the Savannah Republican told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he’s a workhorse who “will yield no ground to any of my opponents as to who is the most conservative.”
Some Republicans worry the primary could become so divisive and costly that a Democrat such as U.S. Rep. John Barrow, who is also considering a bid, has a strong chance against the eventual nominee. Some also fear that Broun’s far-right positions and fiery comments might prove particularly troublesome in a general election.
Kingston had a message for them, too.
“I think a Democrat has a shot under certain circumstances — if we come out of the primary divided and broke and bloody,” he said. “If I’m the nominee, a Democrat will not have that shot.”
Kingston also said that his political base in a Congressional District that is not overwhelmingly Republican taught him to work with the other party without selling out conservative principles. The quest for more government cheese federal funding for the Port of Savannah expansion thus becomes important to his Senate campaign.
Washington has failed us, and the problems facing our country are immense. However, with a fresh vision and true conservative leadership, the return to a prosperous and growing America can be within our reach. What we need is clear: a proven reformer that brings new perspective, someone who isn’t afraid to “shake things up,” and a fighter that stays true to conservative values no matter the political cost.
Steve and I are continuing to think through this important decision and hope you will give us the benefit of your input. Meanwhile, we thank you for your continued support, friendship and prayers.
Jim Galloway wrote that the message sent by Handel’s email was “Don’t forget about me,” but people I spoke to yesterday suggested that Handel’s message was really intended to have an effect on Congressman Tom Price, whose dilly-dallying about his political future has put a potential Handel Senate campaign behind the eight ball and $2 million down against a trio of Congressmen.
Debbie Dooley’s Tea Party Patriots Session Wrap-Up
These groups have worked together for over two years to get meaningful ethics legislation passed. This was the year that ethics reform passed that put limits on lobbyist gifts. This bill is a historic first step. Georgia Common Cause presented Julianne Thompson,Kay Godwin,Pat Tippett, Sen. Josh McKoon and me their coveted “Democracy Award” at an elaborate awards ceremony. Another recipient was State Senator Jason Carter who just happens to be former President Jimmy Carter’s grandson and a strong advocate for tough ethics reform.
You don’t even have to support that particular candidate in South Carolina to think it’s worth investing in the future of some of Georgia’s upcoming Republican leaders. Drive past Starbucks and get a cup of free office sludge, and you can put that $5 towards a good cause.