House Resolution Supporting Transatlantic Trade & Investment Passes while EU Trade Commissioner in Town

Your Georgia Desk:

From The British Consulate-General, Atlanta

In the final days of the 2014 Legislative Session, the House passed Resolution 1280, sponsored by Rep. Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock), to support the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP), which could bring an estimated 25,000 new jobs to the state.

“Reducing the barriers in transatlantic trade is not a political issue; it’s common sense,” said Caldwell.  “And as a dual citizen with the UK, I believe it’s vital we continue to strengthen our transatlantic friendships, which will create new jobs and lift restrictions on the free market on both sides of the Atlantic.” Continue reading

Additional Superior Court judge likely – Times-Georgian: News

The five-county Coweta Judicial Circuit, of which Carroll County is a member, could be getting a new Superior Court judge by mid-year under legislation that is likely to pass during this General Assembly session.

House Bill 742, which would add a seventh judge to the circuit, was passed by the state House Monday by a 160-1 vote. All Carroll County legislators voted for the bill. The legislation is now in the state Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, awaiting to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Randy Nix, R-LaGrange, with local co-sponsors including Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton and Rep. Lynn Smith, Newnan.

The Coweta Judicial Circuit includes Carroll, Coweta, Heard, Troup and Meriwether counties. Current Superior Court judges include Quillan Baldwin, John Simpson, Dennis Blackmon, Jack Kirby, Bill Hamrick and Emory Palmer. The Superior Court is Georgia’s general jurisdiction trial court and covers both civil and criminal matters, such as felony cases, divorce cases, equity and cases over land titles.

The legislation resulted from a recommendation at last fall’s Judicial Council of Georgia meeting, where the group called for new judges for two circuits, based on caseload data. In addition to the Coweta circuit, a new judge for the Waycross circuit is also included in House Bill 742.

via Additional Superior Court judge likely – Times-Georgian: News.

Harbor deepening dominates Savannah-Chatham day |

The fate of Savannah’s harbor deepening may be in federal limbo, but state officials are confident of making it a reality.

Earlier this week, the White House said it can’t let the harbor expansion move ahead until Congress passes a multi-billion-dollar water bill that’s been stuck in committee since last fall.

“I think that’s a matter of interpretation,” Gov. Nathan Deal said Thursday evening, reiterating a commitment to use state funds to move the project forward.

Deal said a separate bill passed by Congress in January is what counts.

“What passed was language in the omnibus appropriations bill, which kept the government open, which is a law,” said Deal “It provided a two-year window in which this project was considered to be in the construction stage. (That) gave us the authorization to move forward.”

Deal’s comments were made during the Savannah-Chatham Day seafood roast, an annual event in which state legislators, lobbyists and power brokers mingle, drink and shuck oysters with Savannah’s elected leaders and business community.

No topic was more widely discussed than the harbor deepening, with many elected leaders expressing frustration at the exclusion of the project in President Obama’s most recent fiscal budget.

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, said he assumed the president was on board with allowing deepening through the two-year fix passed in January.

“We had what the president told us they would do, then we had Plan B, so now Plan B becomes Plan A,” said Kingston.

Other elected officials said they were confident the project would get approval, regardless of who needed to do the approving.

“Authorization is just another process,” said state Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah. “It doesn’t mean we can’t do it, we just have to ask.”

via Harbor deepening dominates Savannah-Chatham day |

Fire destroys part of greyhound rescue facility | Gwinnett Daily Post

STONE MOUNTAIN — For 34 years, Carl Viener has rescued greyhounds, taking them in and pouring his efforts into finding the former racing dogs a permanent home.

On Wednesday, fire claimed their temporary one.

Viener was at Adopt A Greyhound’s home on Annistown Road when, at about 11:45 a.m., he noticed “billowing smoke” coming from the rear building of the two-part structure. He hung up the phone, grabbed the two dogs in that general area and called 911.

By that point, it became apparent there was a full-blown fire.

“It spread a lot,” Viener said Wednesday afternoon, in between phone calls, assessing the damage and helping a repair fence.

Because he had been sweeping and mopping the rear building — generally used only at meal time and when larger quantities of canines necessitate it — the remaining six dogs were already in the home’s front extension and safe from the fire.

The structure, though, was completely destroyed.

“The intense heat and fire got into the frame members and the roof of the house,” Gwinnett County fire spokesman Lt. Colin Rhoden said. “A large area of the roof was burned through and collapsed into the house.”

Fire investigators ultimately determined that the blaze was caused by a portable gas heater, which Viener believes was knocked over by one of the dogs. The front section of the house, which is connected to the original structure by a breezeway, was not affected by the fire but had its electricity disconnected.

Viener said he has a generator and can, for the time being, stay at the house with the dogs. Long term? He’s not sure.

via Fire destroys part of greyhound rescue facility | Gwinnett Daily Post.

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Grayson’s Wilkerson, judges honored at Women’s History Month events | Gwinnett Daily Post

Amidst all the election news during candidate qualifying, this week includes two events highlighting women in politics.

On Wednesday’s Grayson’s first woman mayor was honored at the Capitol, alongside other women in influential roles.

State Rep. Joyce Chandler, who represent’s the city under the Gold Dome, nominated Allison Wilkerson for the Women’s History Month celebration.

First Lady Sandra Deal spoke to the honored guests and representatives and challenged them to a continued life of service, Chandler said.

#She praised Wilkerson as the second generation in her family to take the role as mayor but the first woman.

“I am honored to receive this award from Rep. Chandler,” Wilkerson said. “She is a vital part of our community and a very special lady. To have her recognize my efforts in our community makes this extra special.”

#Women judges to be honored

This weekend three Gwinnett judges will be honored during the Gwinnett League of Women Voters’ 2014 National Women’s Gala.

In 2013, the three women were named chief judges of their respective courts: Melodie Snell Conner of Superior Court, Pamela South of State Court and Kristina Blum of Magistrate Court.

The local chapter of the league heralded this as “an achievement for women judicators.”

via POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Grayson’s Wilkerson, judges honored at Women’s History Month events | Gwinnett Daily Post.

Ethics commission: zero work on complaints since April ‘13 |

The state ethics commission has done no work on any of its 169 open cases in nearly a year, the commission director said Thursday.

In a related move, commissioners Thursday dismissed a complaint against two insurance companies accused of funnelling illegal cash into the 2010 gubernatorial campaign of John Oxendine. Commissioners made no determination on the validity of the complaint, which was filed in 2009; they dismissed it because their staff had made so little progress on it.

“If that’s not toothless, I don’t know what is,” said Wyc Orr, a former state representative and current vice chairman of Common Cause Georgia.

The news comes at the beginning of a busy election year in which every statewide office and every legislative seat is on the ballot.

Executive Secretary Holly LaBerge said blame for the lost year rests with former staff attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein.

“Without an attorney that is actively and competently working on the cases, there is nothing moving forward with a case,” she said. “No cases were investigated or audited or dismissed.”

Commissioners fired Murray-Obertein in January following accusations that she was intoxicated at work. She gave despositions damaging to LaBerge in pending whistle blower cases filed by the former director and her assistant claiming commissioners fired them for pursuing an ethics investigation in the 2010 campaign of Gov. Nathan Deal.

“Ms. LaBerge’s comments are patently false and defamatory,” said Brian Sutherland, Murray-Obertein’s lawyer. He did not elaborate.

Commissioners appeared unsurprised by the news of the immobile backlog of cases.

“We certainly are intimately familiar with the reasons for (the backlog),” Chairman Kevin Abernethy said.

via Ethics commission: zero work on complaints since April ‘13 |

Senate puts in extra raise money for its own staff |

State agencies next year will give many employees their first raises since the Great Recession, but the Senate wants to give the lieutenant governor’s office and the chamber’s budget office a little something extra.

The Senators approved a spending plan Thursday that could enable Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s staff and the Senate Budget Office staff to get bigger raises than most other state workers.

Some who voted for the budget said that wasn’t disclosed to the chamber before it voted on the spending plan.

“I have some concerns when so many state employees have suffered so long without pay raises and then we give them to people involved in the (budget) process,” said Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Tucker, who voted for the budget. “I didn’t know it was there.”

Under the budget the Senate passed, the chamber went along with Gov. Nathan Deal’s recommendation to give agencies a 1 percent hike in payroll — $24 million — to fund merit raises. Many state employees haven’t gotten raises since 2008 or 2009.

Georgia’s more than 100,000 public school teachers also have not received state-funded cost-of-living raises in years.

via Senate puts in extra raise money for its own staff |