The blog.


Now in Congress, Georgians get a closer look at what they ran… |

MONROE — Yvonne Franklin of Loganville volunteered on the front desk, waved signs and made phone calls to help Monroe Republican Jody Hice get elected to the U.S. House last year.

She holds Hice in high esteem and believes he shares her conservative values, but Franklin is frustrated by Congress so far this year.

“What are you doing with regard to getting rid of the speaker or anything else?” she asked Hice last week. “You’re not getting a whole lot done.”

Hice and fellow freshman U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, a Cassville Republican, won open seats last year in part by getting to the right of large fields of GOP primary candidates, touting their willingness to shake up a broken Washington.

After two months in D.C., they have little to show for it.

Hice and Loudermilk have joined the House Freedom Caucus, a new group trying to pull the Republican caucus to the right. But they also took major heat at home for their first vote: to elect John Boehner as speaker of the House.

via Now in Congress, Georgians get a closer look at what they ran… |


Environmental fights intensify at the Georgia Capitol |

Environmentalists say this year at the Georgia Legislature has been particularly brutal.

Lawmakers have so far embraced the plastic bag lobby, taken a swipe at an eco-friendly rating system and written new rules about developing coastal areas. They also have pushed to phase out state tax credits for electric vehicles and — with a nod from Gov. Nathan Deal — backed a plan some fear could weaken the state’s soil and water protection agency.

Each effort has been presented for varying reasons, including to reduce business costs; prevent confusion; favor Georgia-based building suppliers; recoup millions of state dollars; or clear the way for new economic development projects.

Taken together, however, they’ve knocked environmental groups back on their heels in an increasingly fraught race toward the session’s expected end April 2.

“We’ve seen more anti-environmental rollbacks this year than I’ve seen in years,” said Mark Woodall, the Georgia Sierra Club’s legislative chairman.

via Environmental fights intensify at the Georgia Capitol |


Senate transportation plan includes lower gas tax |

According to details obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from people with direct knowledge of the changes who were not authorized to speak on the record, the new version of the bill includes:

  • A 24 cents-per-gallon state excise tax on gasoline and diesel, down from the House’s 29.2 cents-per-gallon proposal.
  • An annual “highway user impact fee” of $25 per passenger vehicle and $50 per truck or bus; essentially an additional fee charged as vehicle owners annually renew their tags.
  • A $5 rental car fee, charged at a flat rate for all rentals regardless whether they are for business or pleasure.
  • A $250 million annual payment toward debt service for the state Department of Transportation, to allow the department to free up a matching amount toward its motor fuel fund to pay for projects statewide.
  • Allowing local cities and counties to collect sales taxes on motor fuel up to $3.39 per gallon for initiatives including special option local sales taxes, optional education sales taxes and local option sales taxes. There would otherwise be no restrictions on how local officials may use money collected through those initiatives.

via Senate transportation plan includes lower gas tax |


Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed Talks Infrastructure Bond, Falcons Stadium | WABE 90.1 FM

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says “every mayor has their issue,” and right now his is the city’s crumbling streets.

On St. Patrick’s Day, city of Atlanta voters will say “yea” or “nay” on $250 million bond package for infrastructure improvements. The city’s overall infrastructure backlog is nearly $1 billion and, quite simply, that means there’s a lot to be fixed. But critics are concerned about what they call a lack of transparency in the referendum.

via Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed Talks Infrastructure Bond, Falcons Stadium | WABE 90.1 FM.


Is this a loophole in the Georgia Campaign Finance Act?


Under the Georgia Campaign Finance Act, public agencies, which the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management would appear to be, “No [public] agency and no person acting on behalf of an agency shall make, directly or indirectly, any contribution to any campaign committee, political action committee, or political organization or to any candidate.” For purposes of this section of the Act,

“Contribution” means a gift, subscription, membership, loan, forgiveness of debt, advance or deposit of money, or anything of value conveyed or transferred by or on behalf of an agency, without receipt of payment therefore, to any campaign committee, political action committee, or political organization or to any candidate for campaign purposes.


Elsewhere in the act, we have some definitions of “Contribution” and “Expenditure” that are broader.

(7) “Contribution” means a gift, subscription, membership, loan, forgiveness of debt, advance or deposit of money or anything of value conveyed or transferred for the purpose of influencing the nomination for election or election of any person for office, bringing about the recall of a public officer holding elective office or opposing the recall of a public officer holding elective office, or the influencing of voter approval or rejection of a proposed constitutional amendment, a state-wide referendum, or a proposed question which is to appear on the ballot in this state or in a county or a municipal election in this state. The term specifically shall not include the value of personal services performed by persons who serve without compensation from any source and on a voluntary basis. The term “contribution” shall include other forms of payment made to candidates for office or who hold office when such fees and compensation made can be reasonably construed as a campaign contribution designed to encourage or influence a candidate or public officer holding elective office. The term “contribution” shall also encompass transactions wherein a qualifying fee required of the candidate is furnished or paid by anyone other than the candidate.

and “Expenditure” is defined thus:

“Expenditure” means a purchase, payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, or any transfer of money or anything of value made for the purpose of influencing the nomination for election or election of any person, bringing about the recall of a public officer holding elective office or opposing the recall of a public officer holding elective office, or the influencing of voter approval or rejection of a proposed constitutional amendment, a state-wide referendum, or a proposed question which is to appear on the ballot in this state or in a county or a municipal election in this state.

§21-5-3(7) and §21-5-3(12).

But it appears that nothing in this section prevents a public agency from making an expenditure to influence voter approval or rejection of a ballot question. Can this be right? And the fact that the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management appears as the purported sender of this direct mail does not prove that the Department actually paid for or authorized the mailing.

It’s also unclear if you could show that this mailer actually attempts to influence voter approval or rejection, though I infer from the content that it is attempting to influence voters.



Adoptable Georgia Dogs for March 17, 2015


Spot is a 30-pound Jack Russell Terrier mix. Spot is such a terrific guy. He wants someone he can trust. He was rehomed with a family member who kept him chained. When he escaped the chain, and they tried to catch him, he panicked and refused to cooperate. This guy is shy, loves men, and wants to know you well enough to cuddle. He knows sit, down, and “sit pretty”. Before his life on a chain he must have been indoors and loved. Spot is available for adoption from the Barrow County Animal Shelter; he is urgent and needs adoption papers filed no later than 4 PM today or he will be euthanized.


Peep is a little Shepherd mix male puppy who is available for adoption from Barrow County Animal Shelter in Winder, Ga.


Yahoo is a small, 33-pound Terrier mix who is available for adoption from Barrow County Animal Shelter in Winder, GA.

Little Shep

This little Male Shepherd Puppy is available for adoption from Barrow County Animal Shelter in Winder, GA.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 17, 2015

On March 17, 1762, the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in New York City by Irish serving in the British army; the date commemorates the death of St. Patrick in 461.

On March 17, 1866, Governor Charles Jones Jenkins signed legislation granting African-Americans the same rights as whites for contracts, suits, inheritance, property, and punishments for violation of the law.

On March 17, 1933, Governor Eugene Talmadge signed a joint resolution of the state legislature to place a plaque on the wall of the Georgia Capitol commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the founding of Georgia.

On March 17, 1943, Governor Ellis Arnall signed legislation creating a commission to revise the 1877 Constitution of Georgia.

Under the Gold Dome Today

2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Finance Subcommittee – Mezz 1
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Transportation Committee – 450 cap

Today’s meeting of the Senate Transportation Committee, Chaired by Senator Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) will take up House Bill 170, the Transportation Finance Act. Kyle Wingfield of the AJC writes about what a Senate version of the transportation tax might look like,

“Most senators believe that we should have some skin in the game,” Williams told me after the Senate adjourned Wednesday, “that we shouldn’t just look for a tax increase without looking at our own budget.”

That means shifting more than just the “fourth penny” of the motor-fuel tax from the state’s general fund to the transportation budget, as HB 170 does.

“The motor fuel tax is a diminishing tax” thanks to fuel-efficiency gains, he said, “so we’re trying to find something that’s a growing number.”

One number that’s been growing in recent years is the state’s general revenue. “If we were to put a couple hundred million dollars a year” from general revenue growth into transportation, he said, “within a few years you could generate some significant money.”

He conceded that requires “the will of the Legislature” for years to come, whereas an excise tax on gasoline is constitutionally bound to go to DOT. “Unless you pass a constitutional amendment, you can’t guarantee that happens. But I think we need to culture ourselves to believe if we have excess revenue, it’s not just education and bonds we look at. We need to look at transportation.”

“We’re not taking any locals’ money,” Williams said. “I have not talked to a senator who thinks we should be taking the locals’ money. … You can’t tell a county that’s got 40 percent of their money coming in (from) motor fuel that they’ve got to spend it all on transportation. It just doesn’t work for them.”

Voters in the City of Atlanta will decide two questions related to issuing approximately $250 million in bonds.

On the ballot, you’ll see them as two separate issues: $187.9 million for public streets, traffic control, curbing, storm water drainage, signs, bridges, streetlights, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian improvements, and $64 million for improvements on public buildings.

Not surprisingly, it’s business-types who are driving the pro-bond referendum, according to the AJC.

Some of Atlanta’s biggest corporate players are backing Mayor Kasim Reed’s $250 million infrastructure bond effort, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars into an 11th hour get-out-the-vote campaign.

Citizens for Better Infrastructure, an independent committee formed last month, raised $432,750 dollars in March from several key business allies, according to campaign disclosure records.

The Atlanta Committee for Progress, a board of top CEOs and academic leaders often tapped to assist with Reed’s initiatives, are the single largest contributors to the campaign, giving $225,000 in March.

Many ACP members, such as Delta CEO Richard Anderson, served on a blue ribbon commission last year to help the city identify cost-savings measures to pay for the bonds.

As of last week, Citizens for Better Infrastructure spent about $323,000 on direct mailings, robocalls and media advertisements to encourage voters to approve the referendum. The committee also launched a social media campaign in late February, postings photos of the group’s efforts.

Jeb Bush in Atlanta

On Thursday, former Florida Governor and potential Presidential contender Jeb Bush will tour the Georgia State Capitol, according to the AJC Political Insider.

Bush is now scheduled to make two high-profile appearances before the state House and Senate. He’ll drop in on Gov. Nathan Deal, too. The noonish appearances could easily coincide with the lunchtime broadcasts of several Atlanta television stations.

Straw Poll follow-up

Gwinnett Dawson GARCC Muscogee Cherokee Total %age
Scott Walker 77 12 527 23 30 669 41.73%
Ben Carson 20 1 119 4 1 145 9.05%
Rand Paul 12 1 185 2 11 211 13.16%
Ted Cruz 7 75 4 8 94 5.86%
Jeb Bush 6 1 95 5 4 111 6.92%
Marco Rubio 5 2 46 2 3 58 3.62%
Bobby Jindal 5 20 1 26 1.62%
Mike Huckabee 3 1 71 5 80 4.99%
Rick Perry 2 1 29 5 37 2.31%
Allen West 2 4 6 0.37%
Chris Christie 2 12 1 2 17 1.06%
Carly Fiorina 1 8 1 10 0.75%
John Kasich 11 1 12 0.75%
Paul Ryan 8 1 9 0.56%
Rick Santorum 7 3 0 10 0.62%
Mitt Romney 1 write-in 30 2 32 2.00%
Undecided 2 73 1 76 4.74%

*GARCC also reported 6 votes for Mike Pence, 2 votes for Donald Trup, and single votes for John Bolton, Newt Gingrich, Trey Gowdy, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Ronald Reagan, and Jeff Sessions. The Georgia Association of Republican County Chairmen includes some of the counties that are broken out separately.


Cindy Ann Doyles was indicted for allegedly stealing more than $25,000 when she served as Peach County Chief Deputy Tax Commissioner.

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia will meet on Wednesday and is expected to approve changing the name of Middle Georgia State College to University.

The Muscogee County School Board has approved a two-step plan to address salary issues where some long-time employees are making less than new hires in the same position.

In Muscogee County, polls are open until 7 PM today for voters to cast ballots on the proposed E-SPLOST to fund education capital projects.

For months now, supporters and opponents of the special tax have been debating, arguing and stating their cases for instituting and rejecting the Education SPLOST. The school district wants to pass the special 1% tax to raise about $193 million over five years for various projects.

Some of the funding would go to a new Spencer High School and classrooms and classes specially designed for autistic children.

Opponents of the tax want more accountability in the school district. They say they would like a comprehensive audit of the district’s finances before passing the tax increase.

Election officials confirm that nearly 5,000 people have already cast their ballots in the early voting period. Another 550 people have mailed in absentee ballots.

Meriwether County residents will go to the ballots today for a County Commission Special Election in which my friend William McKeen is a candidate.

Voters in Avondale Estates will go to the polls today to elect a new Mayor after the last one resigned.

Five candidates are running for the position which only lasts until December 31. The city says the mayor’s seat will be up for reelection on Nov. 3 of this year, with that elected candidate beginning a four-year term on Jan. 1, 2016.

Paul Brown, Jonathan Elmore, Jim Hutchens, John Pomberg, and Todd Pullen all took part in a mayoral forum on February 19. They answered questions from community members about transparency, parking, and annexation.

Avondale Estates said voting on Tuesday will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in two locations:

  • Avondale Estates City Hall, 21 North Avondale Plaza
  • For the newly annexed area of Stratford Green Townhomes (ONLY), voting will take place at Avondale Pattillo United Methodist Church, 3260 Covington Highway, Decatur, Georgia 30032

Richmond County will elect a new Augusta Commissioner in District 7 today, though turnout is expected to be light. Meanwhile, the Augusta Chronicle analyzed how frequently the candidates themselves have gone to the polls.

The Augusta Chronicle looked into the voting records of interim Commissioner Louis “Hap” Harris, retired mortgage banker Sonny Pittman and charity Development Director Sean Frantom going back to 2000.

The records, which don’t specify how someone votes but whether they participate, revealed Harris voted 88 percent of the time, missing the fewest – five elections – of 40 opportunities.

Harris, 65, participated in the 2012 Democratic primary showdown between sheriff’s candidate Scott Peebles and Sheriff Richard Roundtree, but selected a Republican primary ballot 13 times and a nonpartisan ballot once.

Pittman voted 80 percent of the time, missing eight of 40 elections, including Georgia’s 2004 flag vote, a 2009 sales tax referendum and the 2010 general election for mayor and his own Super District 10.

Pittman, 68, voted in the 2008 Democratic primary but chose a Republican primary ballot on 10 other occasions.

But of 29 known election opportunities he had – including general primaries, sales tax referenda, presidential primaries and general elections, Frantom missed 14, for a voting track record of 48 percent.

He voted three times in Columbia County during the early 2000s, but missed two sales tax referenda, two presidential primaries, the state flag vote and two general elections there.

Next door, Columbia County voters will decide on an E-SPLOST.

If approved, the education special purpose local option sales tax referendum will renew collection of the tax starting in 2017, with the expectation that it will fund about $140 million in improvements and additions to Columbia County’s rapidly growing school system.

The growth isn’t expected to slow any time soon. School officials expect at least 700 additional students to enroll next fall and even more in coming years as about 3,700 cyber defense employees are added to Fort Gordon’s workforce, bringing their families to the community.

Hall County residents will have the opportunity to vote for or against SPLOST VII on March 17, 2015.

In Dawson County, voters will cast ballots in elections on an E-LOST (Local Option Sales Tax for Education) and to fill a vacancy on Dawsonville City Council.

A special election will be held in the City of Ephesus, Georgia.

Talbot County will hold a referendum on package sales of beer, wine, and liquor.

Whitfield County will hold an election on a SPLOST for public safety funding today.

College Park will hold elections on a Freeport Tax Exemption, and for one City Council race.

The City of Carrollton is holding a Special Election on a Carrollton City Schools Bond Referendum.


Georgia beer bill wins Senate passage, but supporters want more |

Debate on allowing customers to take home more beer from Georgia’s craft brewers came to a head Friday: The state Senate agreed with the idea. But no one’s celebrating just yet.

Direct sales would still be banned, and the original proposal has been substantially watered down in the legislative process.

Still, the passage of Senate Bill 63 in one chamber is the most success supporters have seen in their years-long effort to expand just how much beer someone could get directly from their local brewery. It also helped the measure beat a key deadline and remain alive in the final weeks of this year’s legislative session, which is scheduled to end April 2.

via Georgia beer bill wins Senate passage, but supporters want more |


Georgia’s House OKs break to let Tesla Motors keep selling cars |

Tesla Motors, unburdened by past opposition from the powerful car dealers lobby, easily won House approval Friday night for a bill letting it continue to avoid independent dealers and sell an unlimited number of its new electric vehicles directly to Georgia consumers.

The measure, which passed 170-3, now goes before the State Senate.

If the legislation wins passage there and sign-off from the governor, California-based Tesla would be the first and only car maker in recent Georgia history to be allowed to sell freely without going through independent dealers. But the company would be capped at five Georgia locations.

via Georgia’s House OKs break to let Tesla Motors keep selling cars |


Cherokee GOP County Convention Straw Poll Results

I’ll type these up in a proper table when I am able, but I’m currently in the chair, mouth numb, waiting for root canal to begin.