Army cuts threaten Georgia jobs | The Augusta Chronicle

A new Army report says Fort Gordon and Georgia could lose thousands of additional military jobs beyond current downsizing plans if Washington imposes future automatic budget cuts, though officials who keep a close watch on the state’s bases say they doubt such severe cutbacks will actually happen.

The report issued last week outlines the Army’s hypothetical, worst-case predictions for job losses at 30 bases across the U.S., including three in Georgia. It shows Fort Stewart near Savannah could lose up to 16,000 soldiers and civilian workers — more than three-fourths of its current workforce. In addition, Fort Benning in Columbus could shed as many as 10,800 jobs and Fort Gordon in Augusta faces up to 4,600 positions being axed.

All combined, the Army says, the cutbacks could cost Georgia $1.7 billion in lost annual income.

State and local officials who work to protect Georgia’s military interests said they’re not too alarmed. While the Army is downsizing from about 570,000 troops to a projected 450,000, its report was written to show how severe reductions could become if the Pentagon faces more automatic, across-the-board budget cuts because the president and Congress can’t agree on future budgets.

“While we of course take the Army processes seriously, this exercise seems to be built around worst-case scenarios not likely to pass muster in Congress,” said Will Ball, a former Navy secretary who heads a lobbying initiative launched by Gov. Nathan Deal to advocate for Georgia’s military bases.

Army commanders have warned Congress that more automatic cuts could force them to shrink the total force to 420,000 soldiers — a number they insist is too low to meet U.S. defense needs. The new base-by-base report essentially puts the cost in economic terms on a local level, showing policymakers and their constituents how painful the cuts could become in their home communities.

via Army cuts threaten Georgia jobs | The Augusta Chronicle.

Georgia House Bill 60 doesn’t stop gun prohibition at Augusta Municipal Building | The Augusta Chronicle

Despite the passage and implementation today of Georgia House Bill 60, ordinary armed Augustans still can’t carry their weapons, concealed or otherwise, into the city’s municipal building, courthouse or sheriff’s office.

“As long as the building is protected by security, the permit holder still cannot bring a weapon in,” said Lt. Bryan Patterson of the Richmond County Marshal’s Office, which handles security at the Augusta Municipal Building.

The bill opened the door for anyone with a weapons carry license to enter any government building with a weapon, so long as the building doesn’t have a security checkpoint where visitors are screened for firearms.

If it does, however, as is the case at the Augusta Municipal Building – which doubles as a “courthouse annex,” Augusta-Richmond County Judicial Center and John Ruffin Courthouse, and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office – visitors cannot be charged with unlawfully carrying a weapon as long as they notify law enforcement.

In addition, visitors must follow instructions for temporarily removing, securing and storing the weapon, according to Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.

For Augusta Recreation, Parks and Facilities visitors the rules aren’t changing, either, and permit holders are allowed to carry weapons on city property.

“The only place guns specifically can be prevented is where there is literally a guard at the door,” said Recreation Director Bob Levine. “We don’t have that situation at any of our facilities.”

via Georgia House Bill 60 doesn’t stop gun prohibition at Augusta Municipal Building | The Augusta Chronicle.

Peach sellers look to recover from low supplies, high prices | The Augusta Chronicle

After a slow start, plenty of peaches are hitting local fruit stands.

Produce seller Sebrena Muirhead lost out on peach sales in May and June. Farms in South Carolina’s prime peach-growing region were asking too high a price because of a shortage of early variety peaches, she said.

On the first day of July, Muirhead said supplies were picking up, perfect timing for her customers hoping to make peach cobblers and homemade ice cream during the July Fourth holiday weekend.

“Everything’s back to normal. It’s much easier to get them,” said Muirhead, wiping her brow at the tailgate of her red Chevy pickup parked in the 1700 block of Walton Way.

A hard freeze in late March ruined South Carolina’s early peach crop, causing about $80 million in damage. With a low supply, high prices hit most sellers hard until later varieties were ready for picking.

via Peach sellers look to recover from low supplies, high prices | The Augusta Chronicle.

Richmond County Sheriff’s Office acquires surplus military equipment | The Augusta Chronicle

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office might now have what it needs to survive a zombie apocalypse.

The department announced Tuesday it has acquired a wide-ranging assortment of government military surplus items, including a mine-resistant vehicle, a dozen Humvees, 50 body bags and 500 chests of ammunition. It’s all part of more than $3.4 million in equipment military surplus equipment picked up since January at little or no cost.

“This is something that we might have needed and we didn’t have to spend any money,” Capt. Calvin Chew said. “We could use (the money) in the budget for something else now. All around, it’s a great program and it’s something the sheriff is very proud of.”

The department has wasted no time in putting the equipment to use, Chew said. The Humvees arrived Jan. 22, and were quickly put into service transporting medical personnel to and from work in the wake of a February ice storm that crippled much of the Augusta area. The four-wheel drive capabilities allowed deputies to travel icy roads to rescue stranded citizens, he said.

via Richmond County Sheriff’s Office acquires surplus military equipment | The Augusta Chronicle.

PolitiFact: Claim of ‘worst’ governor for education ignores… | www.myajc.com

The Carter camp issued a statement saying “Gov. Deal has the worst record on education in the history of this state.” Spokesman Bryan Thomas later said the camp was referring to his record on education funding and specifically pointed to austerity cuts during his administration. Annual austerity cuts topped $1 billion in his first three budgets, but they also were that high in the last two budgets of his predecessor, Sonny Perdue.

The Carter camp can’t prove that among Georgia’s 82 governors Deal’s record is the worst on education in general or on education funding in specific.

The Carter campaign’s charge was incendiary — that the sitting governor has the worst education record in Georgia’s history. And we smell smoke.

We award it our lowest rating, Pants On Fire.

via PolitiFact: Claim of ‘worst’ governor for education ignores… | www.myajc.com.

Quiz: Can You Tell What Makes a Good Tweet? – NYTimes.com

A fun game if you’re interested in social media.

An algorithm developed by three Cornell University computer scientists, Chenhao Tan, Lillian Lee and Bo Pang, claims to outperform the average person in telling which of two similar tweets will be retweeted more. Think you can do better than the algorithm? Put your social media skills to the test here.

via Quiz: Can You Tell What Makes a Good Tweet? – NYTimes.com.

Assigning a Dollar Value to Being the Incumbent – NYTimes.com

What is an incumbency worth? About half a million dollars, mostly from business political action committees who know cementing ties to established politicians is a top priority.

That incumbent politicians have a financial advantage over their challengers is not news, but Alexander Fouirnaies, a doctoral candidate at the London School of Economics and Andrew B. Hall, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University, set out to define just how much of an advantage in a paper being published this month in The Journal of Politics.

Using elections for the House of Representatives from 1980 to 2006 and for state legislatures from 1990 to 2010, the authors focused on races where either a Republican or a Democrat very narrowly won election. They then looked at the winner’s fund-raising in the next election. On average, a candidate for national office would get a boost of $500,000 in contributions in the next election. (The $500,000 figure is in 2014 dollars; the paper uses constant 1990 dollars, which puts the advantage at $275,000).

via Assigning a Dollar Value to Being the Incumbent – NYTimes.com.

 Georgia to delay welfare drug test law | www.myajc.com

As a new state law to drug-test welfare recipients went into effect Tuesday, state officials said they will delay enforcing it, even as opponents were girding to sue.

With the passage this spring of House Bill 772, the Georgia Legislature and Gov. Nathan Deal approved the nation’s hardest-hitting law that calls for drug tests on recipients of poverty aid.

But a spokesman for Deal, Brian Robinson, on Tuesday told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the state will hold off on implementing HB 772 until a federal appeals court rules on a related Florida case, so as not to waste money on a legal fight.

via  Georgia to delay welfare drug test law | www.myajc.com.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 2, 2014

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution by Richard Henry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) calling for independence from Britain. The delegations of twelve colonies voted in favor, while New York’s abstained, not knowing how their constituents would wish them to vote.

On July 2, 1826, representatives from Georgia and Alabama met to begin surveying the border between the two.

On July 2, 1861, Georgia voters approved a new state Constitution, which had been adopted by the state’s Secession Convention.

July 2, 1863 saw day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg, with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia attacking Meade’s Army of the Potomac.

On July 2, 1898, the first pot of delicious Brunswick Stew was made in Brunswick, Georgia. I think I’ll celebrate with a bowl for lunch today.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1864. Major provisions included outlawing discriminatory application of voting laws, prohibiting racial discrimination in public accomodations, allowing the Attorney General to join lawsuits against states operating segregated public schools, and prohibiting discrimination by state and local governments or agencies receiving federal funds.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a witness to Johnson’s signature, standing behind the President in the Oval Office. Johnson presented King with one of the 72 pens used in signing the legislation.

Occasionally, pens from the Civil Rights Act signing come onto the collectors’ market. A collection of 50 pens used to sign legislation by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson went across the block in November 2013. This pen went unsold.

As a student of Dr. Merle Black in the political science department at Emory, we began our study of Southern politics from the premise that race relations and the legacy of racial discrimination shaped Southern politics. One book we read every year was The Longest Debate: A Legislative History of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which belongs on the bookshelf of any serious student of American politics, political history, and legislative process.

Modern Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Incumbent Cobb County Board of Educations member Tim Stultz came in second on May 20th and will defend his seat in the runoff election July 22d.

“As you know, the district has been running deficits up until this past year,” said the Georgia Tech graduate and engineer. “I’ve been one of the board members trying to get the district past that using some good fiscal sense. Now that money’s coming in, I think it’s an even more important time to make sure that what we’re spending is in line with what the taxpayers expect.”
Stultz commands the respect of such Cobb County conservatives as state Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth).
“I admire Tim,” Setzler said. “I think he’s the kind of thoughtful, independent-minded person that the school board needs. He’s a detailed person, and he’s got the independence that the 700,000 people of Cobb County expect from school board members. I think it’s important that there be a healthy distinction between board members and staff of the district, and I think Tim’s done a very good job of striking that balance.”

Asked if he’d consider a millage rate hike if re-elected this year, Stultz replied, “Absolutely not.”

His opponent, Susan Thayer, thinks things are looking up for her campaign.

“I’m not critiquing his performance. I’m just saying I think I could give our system good representation for our area,” Thayer said.

“Stultz took 33 percent of the vote, which means 67 percent of the voters wanted a change on the board,” Thayer said.
Abel has officially endorsed Thayer.

A major difference between Thayer and her primary opponent is the controversial Common Core education standards. Stultz has long been against the standards, but Thayer sees them as merely a framework for education that will have little effect on the day-to-day learning environment.
“I don’t know whether Mr. Stultz has reviewed all of the Common Core standards,” she said. “I have not. I doubt very seriously that he has either. It would be hard to give an analysis of Common Core. What I do know is that I totally dislike the fact it has caused controversy for our schools.”

Thayer feels the standards, which some conservative critics have denounced as “Obamacore,” have been politicized unfairly.
“I think there is some confusion on terms,” she said. “There is a difference between standards, curriculum and instruction. Standards are simply a framework upon which you build your curriculum.”

Thayer was asked if there were any circumstances in which she would vote for a tax increase if elected. She responded by pointing out the district’s millage rate, capped at 20 mills, was already at 18.9 mills. Raising it to 20 mills would be enough to hire 240 teachers.

“Spread that over 115 schools,” Thayer said. “That’s not the solution for our school system, so I don’t see it as a solution. We’re going to have to find other ways to deal with it. So I would need some real convincing before I would be willing to do that. I’m not saying it can’t happen. You know, never say never. And you certainly get more information when you’re in a situation to look at it more clearly.”

Convincing lawmakers to kill Cobb’s senior exemption, which waives the school portion of a senior’s property tax bill, is not something she believes will happen either. But she wouldn’t say the option is off the table, either.

“I’m not saying that. I don’t have the information to say what I’d really do, but I can’t imagine our legislators doing that, so it’s not going to be my consideration.”

If I lived in Cobb County, I would cast my ballot for Tim Stultz on July 22d, not because of his opposition to Common Core, but because of his opposition to raising property taxes.

Georgia Public Broadcasting has a story on how two churches are handling the new gun bill that went into effect this week differently.

A new law goes into effect July 1 that allows places of worship to “opt-in” to church carry. And it’s been a tough decision for people on both sides of the issue.

Inside his office at Berean Baptist Church in Social Circle, Pastor Tom Rush has met with a church deacon about everything from the church’s community cookout, to how the new gun law will impact their small congregation. Rush says the church has about 90 members, and it averages about 70 on a Sunday morning.

Church leadership has already decided they want to “opt-in”, but Rush knows that might not sit well with everyone.

“Quite frankly, we may have some people in our church that are uncomfortable with the idea. I’m uncomfortable with it,” said Rush. “You know, I grew up in a day when we left the sanctuary doors open so people could come in at any time and pray. Unfortunately, we don’t live in those days anymore.”

Bishop Robert Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta announced that the 109 parishes he leads would not welcome firearms.

“I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to talk about what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the 21st Century,” says Wright. “Even though permission has been given to have guns everywhere, that stops for us at the sanctuary. This is a gun-free zone.”

Bishop Wright says even though he was active in lobbying against the gun bill this spring, this was not a political decision, but one based on faith. The Bishop calls this a “respectful disagreement” with state lawmakers and even other Christians.

“We know that there are people who this has been a tough conversation for them and some people are choosing to leave, though these have been very isolated incidents. I can tell you what I have heard. I’ve heard that more people are wanting to come to the Episcopal Church now, because of the stance.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has decided that city property will be gun-free. Except for law enforcement and criminals.

“As Mayor, I have made public safety the top priority of my administration. Accordingly, in response to a new statewide gun law that took effect today, the City has taken extra security measures to keep employees and citizens safe at our facilities.

“Effective today, City recreation centers with extensive summer programming will be staffed with security officers to screen entrants and prevent firearms from entering the buildings.

With the exception of certain public safety officials and employees, there is no place for firearms in a city facility. Every City of Atlanta government facility that screens the entrance into the facility with security personnel will continue to prohibit firearms.

One beneficiary, likely unintended, of the new law: sign printers and manufacturers.

Melvin La Pan with Fast Signs says orders for signs started coming in the last few weeks. “We’ve definitely seen a lot more signs that say please don’t bring weapons in here,” he said.

But he doesn’t think they’ll do much good. “People who break the law all the time they’re not gonna listen to a sign,” La Pan said.

But Williamson says, these signs, could make a world of difference. “Because they’re a reminder. They’re something more visible to remind people,” he said.

Already, Richmond County Schools also have signs up around the schools. There are some leading up from the streets and on the doors to make sure visitors know, no weapons are allowed.

Hobby Lobby fallout coming to Georgia?

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was at the center of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The Court’s decision was that the contraceptive coverage mandate in Obamacare violated the RFRA.

The high court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case refocused attention on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that passed Congress overwhelmingly in 1993, with the support of some lawmakers still serving in both the House and Senate. The statute requires federal laws to accommodate individuals’ religious beliefs unless there is a compelling interest at stake that can’t be attained through other means.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the lead Republican sponsor of the religious-freedom law when it passed the Senate in a 97-3 vote, said Monday’s decision affirmed Congress’ decision to pass the law in the first place.

“As the Supreme Court rightfully said today, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act could not have been clearer in saying religious liberty of all Americans must be equally protected and not unnecessarily burdened,” Mr. Hatch said in a statement. “That’s why RFRA passed Congress overwhelmingly more than 20 years ago.”

Georgia state Senator Josh McKoon wrote on Facebook:

The Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) passed in 1993 is what allowed today’s historic decision. Did you know there is no Georgia RFRA protecting you from intrusion into your religious liberties by state and local government? Help us pass a Georgia RFRA next year!

This year, McKoon worked to pass Senate Bill 377, the “Preservation of Religious Freedom Act”, co-sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer. In the House, State Rep. Sam Teasley and Majority Whip Matt Ramsey introduced a version of the bill.

Liberal columnist Tom Crawford wrote that a state act mirroring the RFRA was not necessary.

We don’t need religious protection laws because we already have one of the strongest measures in the world protecting the right to worship: the First Amendment. It has been part of the U.S. Constitution for more than 220 years and the last time I checked, it had not been repealed.

What I think Crawford doesn’t understand was that sometimes legislation is required to make the promises of the Bill of Rights more than mere words on paper. Absent a cause of action, provided in the Hobby Lobby case by the RFRA, the Bill of Rights on its own is not always sufficient. I would argue that was the case as well with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Senate race continues heating up

Yesterday, Karen Handel released, via the Kingston campaign, a scathing criticism of David Perdue’s remarks on foreign relations.

Former Secretary of State Karen Handel today called on David Perdue to apologize for his disparaging comments about Americans made during an interview the Macon Telegraph editorial board.  In the interview, Perdue says, “We see the world through the ugly American’s eyes.”

When a questioner declared that Americans are the “arrogant teenagers” of the world, Perdue responded with an unequivocal, “Absolutely.”  He added, “The rest of the world gets it.”

“David Perdue just can’t seem to keep his arrogance in check,” said Handel.  “First, he belittles Georgians who don’t have a four-year college degree and haven’t lived overseas.  Then, he patronizes the grassroots core of the GOP.  Now, he’s insulting Americans in general.”

That led me to remember that in French, perdu means lost. More to the point, “il est perdu,” means “he has lost,” or “there is no hope for him.”

If you added up the people of whom David Perdue said something like “he/she/they don’t get it,” I suspect you’d have a majority of Georgians included.

Yesterday, state Senator and former Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams endorsed David Perdue for United States Senate.

Leadership is absent in Washington. We have people who I believe are well intentioned, but they simply don’t have the ability to make a difference. This year in Georgia we have a chance to elect a proven leader to shake up Washington and actually get results. I believe that leader is David Perdue. I’m proud to endorse him in this runoff election for U.S. Senate.

This was not an easy public endorsement for me to make – I’ve known Congressman Kingston for years, and I’m from his area here in southeast Georgia – but it’s the right thing to do. My endorsement is nothing personal against Congressman Kingston. He’s a fine man who has done some good things for Georgia. I just believe David is better qualified to make a difference in Washington and address the crisis of the day. I meet with candidates routinely who want to run for office and I always ask myself could they lead the body in which they seek to serve. I have no doubt David can and will be a natural leader in the Senate and help save our country.

A fellow called Don Cole wrote about Tommie Williams’s endorsement and added what is to me an even better endorsement.

I know a side of David that I have shared with a few people on an individual basis. Several months ago, I woke up early on a Sunday morning and felt a strong sense to pray for David and Bonnie. Some of the first hits of the campaign were starting to come out that portrayed him as arrogant and conceited.  You know how it feels to be misrepresented and have your name smeared. I knew that it was probably hitting Bonnie harder than David.

As I prayed I wrote a quick e-mail to say, “I’m praying for you right now.”  I did not expect a reply and hoped that the e-mail would offer some encouragement. Later that afternoon Bonnie wrote me back with words of sincere thanks. David also wrote back with words of thanks and he also added a passage of Scripture that he had been studying.  He went on to add how he was applying that Scripture in this particular situation.

I was not expecting any reply.  When I saw that David replied, I anticipated seeing, “thank you for your prayers” and maybe something like, “they mean a lot to me.”  I did not expect his in depth response sharing what Scripture he had been studying and how he was applying it.

Since that time, I have spent more time in prayer, study of Scripture, and reflections on his spiritual walk than with any other person that I have prayed for in public life. He has also prayed for me.  David is in this race because he has no other option. He is answering a call to run. Like anyone of us, he doesn’t know what tomorrow holds, but he knows what he must do today, be obedient to a calling. That is why he is in this race.

Pat Gartland endorses Bob Barr

Former Georgia Christian Coalition Chair Pat Gartland has endorsed Bob Barr in the 11th Congressional District runoff election.

“Bob Barr understands that serving in Congress is serious business.  I trust Bob Barr to represent the 11th District because I know Bob to be a consistent champion for conservative Georgia values, and I am honored to support him. Bob Barr has always fought for our community, our small businesses, our veterans, and our values.

“When I served Georgia as state Chairman of the Christian Coalition, I had the opportunity to work with Bob Barr on many issues impacting our families and our community. Bob Barr was always willing to stand for those values that are important to our families, and I trust Bob Barr to continue that leadership in Congress.

“When I served in the Small Business Administration for President George W. Bush, I had the opportunity to work with Bob Barr on many issues important to the small business community. Bob Barr never hesitated to go to work on behalf of our business owners and their employees, as well as fight the bureaucrats in Washington. I know that Bob Barr will continue his leadership for our small business leaders in Congress.

“As a veteran, I know Bob Barr stands with us. From his leadership in Congress on the Veterans Affairs Committee, to his leadership in the creation of the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton and the Veterans out-patient clinic in Marietta, I know Bob Barr will continue to fight for our veterans because he has a proven track record with veterans.”

Just in case you haven’t read it a dozen times, I have worked for Bob Barr’s campaign.

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