The blog.

17
Dec

Adoptable Georgia Dogs for December 17, 2015

Libby

Libby is an adult female German Shepherd who is available for adoption from the Habersham County Animal Shelter in Clarkesville, GA.

Hulk

Hulk is an adult male Rottweiler mix who is available for adoption from the Habersham County Animal Shelter in Clarkesville, GA.

BB_Hab

B.B. is a young male Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from the Habersham County Animal Shelter in Clarkesville, GA.

17
Dec

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

France formally recognized the United States as an independent nation on December 17, 1777.

General Ulysses S. Grant expelled all Jews from his military district, which covered parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky on December 17, 1862. President Lincoln ordered Grant to rescind the order.

President William McKinley visited Savannah, Georgia on December 17, 1898. While there, McKinley attended church at Wesley Monumental Methodist Church and visited Georgia Agricultural and Medical College (now Savannah State University) and the Seventh Army.

On December 17, 1902, legislation changed Georgia’s state flag changed to include the coat of arms on the blue band.

Flag_of_the_State_of_Georgia_(1902-1906).svg copy

On December 17, 1944, Major General Henry C. Pratt ordered the end of the imprisonment of American citizens of Japanese descent in prison camps.

WTBS began broadcasting under new call letters on December 17, 1976 and uplinked its programming to satellite to become “America’s Super Station.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Butch Teresa Miller FR

State Senator Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) will continue to serve as Senior Floor Leader for Governor Nathan Deal, who is a constituent of Miller’s.

As a senior floor leader, Miller helps carry Deal’s legislative priorities through the Senate, sometimes presenting and defending the governor’s agenda as a kind of right-hand man.

Miller also is there to push back on legislation that Deal does not support.

Miller said that his role allows him to “peek behind the curtains” and better understand the political maneuverings and policy proposals that shape legislation.

Republican lawmakers are expected to push for lowering state income tax rates in favor of higher sales taxes; to consider changes to the funding formula for transportation projects; to debate whether to allow the in-state cultivation of medical cannabis oil; and how to reform public schools and boost the technical college system.

“Sen. Miller represents his constituents, of which the governor is one, with honesty and integrity,” Chris Riley, Deal’s chief of staff, said. “His conservative values and work ethic are well-known and admired by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. The senator is a doer, not a follower, a characteristic that embodies the governor’s term in office.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has arranged free credit monitoring services for Georgia voters who were registered on October 13, 2015 or earlier. Full information on the range of services for voters whose data was inadvertently released may be found on the SOS website.

Linda Meigs, Mayor of Meigs, Georgia, may face a recall election.

Since Harris has been in office, she has been arrested for theft from the city and reportedly told police officers not to respond to certain calls after the city lost its insurance.

According to the city’s police chief, the elections commissioner in Meigs has received a petition for a mayoral recall with 165 signatures.

Only 116 were needed to hold the election. If the signatures are all verified, the election would be held May of 2016.

The Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission had a busy week, issuing decisions in an investigation against former Insurance Commissioner and 2010 Gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine.

The state ethics commission handed colorful former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine a split decision Wednesday in his case alleging that he raised illegal contributions during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign and spent money on races he never ran.

Citing the state’s statute of limitations, the panel dismissed complaints that Oxendine took 19 contributions that were over the legal limit during his 2010 race.

But the commission also decided to move ahead on charges that Oxendine spent more than $200,000 in 2010 runoff and general election contributions, despite the fact that he never ran those races. That keeps the complaint against Oxendine’s handling of his 2010 gubernatorial race alive and means it won’t be decided until 2016, at the earliest.

“It was kind of a mixed bag,” said Douglas Chalmers, Oxendine’s lawyer. Chalmers said Oxendine may appeal the commission’s ruling in Superior Court.

The Commission also took action in two other cases against elected officials.

The state’s ethics commission, formally known as the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, on Wednesday found probable cause that state Rep. Earnest G. Smith, an Augusta Democrat, violated various state laws in his handling of campaign cash.

A commission investigation found Smith committed 88 violations of campaign finance laws. Among them: Smith allegedly failed to disclose property he owned on personal financial disclosure reports and failed to report $7,503 in campaign contributions and $25,297 in campaign expenditures since December 2010.

Commission attorney Robert Lane said $19,256 of the unreported expenditures were checks made out to “cash,” and Smith has provided no receipts showing how the money was spent. Lane said the Attorney General’s Office should investigate to determine whether Smith used the money for personal instead of campaign purposes — a move that would amount to theft.

In a separate case, former Clayton County Commissioner Wole Ralph also could face a criminal investigation.

A commission investigation found 17 violations by Ralph, who left office in 2012. Among other things, the investigation found he deposited 107 campaign contributions totaling $68,025 into his personal bank accounts, failed to report or itemize $109,200 in contributions, and spent $88,000 on expenses that were not “ordinary and necessary” campaign costs.

For the record, making campaign checks out to cash is not a best practice for ethics reporting.

Hall Booth Smith will be the first new law firm to represent the Muscogee County School Board in 65 years.

It is one of the firms where lawyers from the school district’s current legal counsel, Hatcher, Stubbs, Land, Hollis & Rothschild, will work as of Jan. 1, when Hatcher Stubbs officially breaks up.

Hatcher Stubbs has been MCSD’s lone legal counsel in the 65-year history of the school district. The Hatcher Stubbs lawyers who have been doing the bulk of the legal work for MCSD, Greg Ellington, Melanie Slaton and Chuck Staples, are among those moving to Hall Booth.

Myers cited a board policy that says “legal counsel shall be appointed by the board,” but Lewis cited another board policy that says the appointment shall come “upon the recommendation of the superintendent.”

“Tonight, we finally have the chance to end the string of nearly seven decades of no-bid contracts when it comes to legal counsel,” Myers said. “I’m sorry for all you folks who thought I had a problem with Hatcher Stubbs. Tonight, you get to find out I didn’t. I have a problem with no-bid contracts generally, and I certainly have a problem with no-bid legal contracts. Back to this process, how can you come up with any other conclusion but that this was a rigged system, a rigged pick?”

Columbus City Council approved its first Tax Allocation District this week.

Columbus Council unanimously approved creating the city’s first Tax Allocation District. It will facilitate the creation of a Fort Benning Technology Park, in the hope of luring defense contractors, among others, to otherwise unused land near the main gate of the post.

A decision on three other TADS, one around the Liberty District, one in Uptown and one in the area between TSYS and Bibb City for the creation City Village, was put off until January.

Voting 9-0, with Mayor Pro Tem Evelyn Turner-Pugh yet to arrive, councilors approved creating the district, but the resolution does not give the go-ahead to any development within it. That will have to be done by council later.

DeKalb County’s Good, Bad and Ugly

The City of Brookhaven celebrates its third birthday today, and next month will swear-in its third Mayor since incorporation on December 17, 2012.

CBS46 is reporting that former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones is considering a comeback bid.

Former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones attended the final county commission meeting of the year Tuesday, while interim CEO Lee May did not.

“I don’t know why the iCEO was not here. I can tell you this, that’s a big job. When I was here because of our form of government, I presided over the meetings so I had to be here. In fact, I went eight years and never missed a meeting,” Jones said.

While in office, Jones stirred up some controversy of his own. He was accused of excessive spending and was sued for racial discrimination. Still, the former CEO didn’t rule out the possibility of a return to politics and running for DeKalb County CEO.

“I think if Vernon wants to run again and he feels he has something to offer this county then he should do it,” DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton said.

Commissioner Nancy Jester opposes the idea and said Jones put a down payment on some of the problems the county is facing today.

“I don’t think that he’s the right fit,” Jester said. “The cityhood movement was also something that I think people often times will say came from frustration in dealing with his administration.”

The DeKalb County Commission approved the creation of a Tax Allocation District related to the former GM Plant in Doraville, according to a report by the AJC’s Mark Niesse.

The DeKalb County Commission unanimously approved an agreement Tuesday to invest in the redevelopment of the shuttered General Motors factory in Doraville.

The commission’s action obligates a portion of future property tax growth to help pay for infastructure improvements, including a tunnel to the Doraville MARTA station and a street grid on the property.

Developers hope to transform the vacant 165-acre site, known as Assembly, into a vibrant mixed-use area that includes businesses, residential housing and parks.

DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester released a video report on the Commission’s action and addresses the TAD approval.

At a recent event, Senator Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) said that the success or failure of the GM site is the biggest economic development issue in DeKalb County. Millar cited the site as one of the most valuable development sites in the Southeast and said that the County government’s actions will determine whether DeKalb County has any major economic development going forward. I agree.

Peach State Presidential Politics

Texas Senator Ted Cruz opened what I believe is the first Georgia field office for a 2016 Presidential campaign yesterday.

His highly organized grassroots efforts are spreading in Georgia like wildfire, and he is now the first presidential candidate with a campaign headquarters established in Lowndes County. The office will open with a ribbon cutting Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 3 pm.

County Chairman Trey Taylor says, “Our nation is at a political crossroads. We cannot continue down the road we have traveled over the last several years. Leadership is what this nation needs, the kind of leadership Ted Cruz has shown his entire career. Championing conservative causes, fighting for religious liberty, our Second Amendment rights, preventing government overreach, and providing for a stronger, safer America. It is clear that Ted Cruz is a man called for this time in our history. We welcome all committed, compassionate conservatives to our cause.”

He views Georgia as essential in his effort to be named the GOP nominee in the coming election, and has made his presence known here, as has his wife, Heidi, who has spoken around the state just this month.

Cruz said recently, “Georgia is a crucial state to the 2016 election and I am looking forward to working alongside the stronghold of courageous conservatives who work tirelessly to defend conservative principles across the state.”

He spoke confidently of his leaders, saying, “The team we have put together has unparalleled experience running and winning campaigns at the grassroots level. I am honored and excited to have their enthusiastic support as we spread our message in Georgia and across the region.”

For signage or to find out how you can get involved at the local level, visit the campaign office at 2110 N. Patterson St. Stay up to date on local efforts by liking the Lowndes County for Ted Cruz, 2016 page on Facebook.

Campaigns & Elections magazine has an article suggesting that asking whether Republican campaigns in Iowa are not putting forth sufficient efforts in field work.

Consultants from both sides of the aisle are scratching their heads over the Republican presidential contenders’ field operations in Iowa.

Field organizing in the lead off caucuses is the industry’s gold standard, but Republicans this cycle are putting GRPs ahead of phone banks and canvassing. Some GOP consultants shrugged this off as a continuing trend while their Democratic counterparts believe it could be another edge they have in the race for the White House.

By stymying the development of well-rounded campaign staffers, the eventual nominee could be shorthanded when it comes to the general, argues Jeremy Bird, co-founder of 270 Strategies.

“The fact that none of them are serious about running a field organizing program in a race that’s wide open is very surprising to those of us who’ve seen how important that is — especially in a caucus state,” said Bird, who was the national field director for President Obama’s reelection campaign.

“You get a long-term reward from that early investment. But they’re not focused on building leadership, developing relationships and doing the hard, nitty-gritty work.”

Republican campaigns neglecting field in favor of TV is nothing new, according to Chris Turner, CEO of Stampede Consulting.

“Emphasis on television, it’s like, is the sky blue?,” said Turner. “A lot of consultants are good at television; they know television. They’re going to default to that business. There’s a lot of pain in our business for taking risks.”

The first negative political direct mail in the Presidential campaign is appearing in Hawkeye State mailboxes, according to Jonathan Martin of the New York Times.

https://mobile.twitter.com/jmartNYT/status/677184604374077440

The Cruz-Rubio dynamic appears to be growing more confrontational beyond the debate stage and campaign trail. Republicans in Iowa this week received their first piece of mail from a group run by backers of Mr. Rubio, criticizing Mr. Cruz for his vote to limit the National Security Agency’s metadata program. (Mr. Cruz has said an alternative program strengthened the country’s capacity to fight terrorism.)

“These men undermined our intelligence agencies’ ability to stop terrorist attacks,” the mailer read, below a photo of Mr. Cruz, Mr. Paul, President Obama and Senator Harry Reid.

Negative Mail Iowa Rubio copy

Peach State Economy

Yesterday, Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler reported that unemployment declined in Georgia for November.

The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) announced today that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in November was 5.6 percent, down one-tenth of a percentage point from 5.7 percent in October. The rate was 6.7 percent in November 2014.

“Our employers created 3,700 jobs in November, which helped push the unemployment rate down to its lowest point since March 2008,” said State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.

The number of jobs increased to 4,309,100, or 0.1 percent, from 4,305,400 in October. Much of the job growth came in professional and business services, 2,300; construction, 2,100; education and health services, 1,800; leisure and hospitality, 1,700; and manufacturing, 1,400. These gains were somewhat offset by losses in information services, government, financial activities, and trade, transportation and warehousing.

“Over the year, we added 92,900 jobs, which is a respectable 2.2 percent growth rate,” said Butler. “Georgia continues to grow jobs faster than the nation, which has a 1.9 percent growth rate.”

 

16
Dec

Former DeKalb County CEO considers a return to politics – CBS46 News

Former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones attended the final county commission meeting of the year Tuesday, while interim CEO Lee May did not.

“I don’t know why the iCEO was not here. I can tell you this, that’s a big job. When I was here because of our form of government, I presided over the meetings so I had to be here. In fact, I went eight years and never missed a meeting,” Jones said.

Still, the former CEO didn’t rule out the possibility of a return to politics and running for DeKalb County CEO.

“I think if Vernon wants to run again and he feels he has something to offer this county then he should do it,” DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton said.

Commissioner Nancy Jester opposes the idea and said Jones put a down payment on some of the problems the county is facing today.

“I don’t think that he’s the right fit,” Jester said. “The cityhood movement was also something that I think people often times will say came from frustration in dealing with his administration.”

via Former DeKalb County CEO considers a return to politics – CBS46 News.

16
Dec

Ted Cruz in Valdosta today?

I just received the following email from the Lowndes County Republican Party:

United States Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz will be opening his Valdosta head quarters today at 3pm. The ribbon cutting will take place at 2110 N. Patterson Street. There will be food, drink, and a surprise “guest”. The public is invited to attend.

It’s not clear to me whether that means Cruz will be at the HQ opening, or whether it means the Cruz campaign will be opening the Valdosta headquarters. I’m seeking clarification.

16
Dec

Adoptable Georgia Dogs for December 16, 2015

Gwinnett Urgent Shepherd

This sweet, 6-year old German Shepherd male is begging for his last chance. He’s already been given one reprieve and is likely to be euthanized unless he finds a home immediately. Here’s his story:

THIS BOY IS VERY SWEET AND WONDERFUL AROUND PEOPLE BUT HAS BEEN HERE SINCE 10-29-15 AND HIS MENTAL HEALTH IS SLIPPING. HE KNOWS OBEDIENCE AND LOVES TO BE LOVED. HE DOES NOT LIKE OTHER DOGS AND WOULD NOT BE A GOOD FIT FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN. HE NEEDS A RESCUE WHO IS FAMILIAR WITH THE BREED AND COULD WORK WITH HIM. HE HAS UNTIL MONDAY 12-14-15 AT 4PM TO BE PICKED UP BY A RESCUE. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN HELPING THIS SWEET BOY PLEASE CONTACT THE RESCUE PHONE OR EMAIL. HE IS RESCUE ONLY.
Yes, he’s rescue only, but often rescues will work with someone who is willing to foster a dog. If you’re interested in helping this boy, despite the odds against him, email [email protected] His pen is SD-09 and his ID# 47843.

 

47843v2

48435

Pen number 48435 is a small male Terrier mix who is available for adoption from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

Gwinnett25871

Number 25871 is a young female Labrador Retriever who is available for adoption from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

16
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 16, 2015

While not the most famous signer of the Declaration of Independence, Button Gwinnett’s is generally the most expensive. In 2010, an example sold at auction for $772,500, while an offering earlier this year failed to cross the block at an estimated £600k-800k.

Today, you could bid on a document signed by Lachlan McIntosh, who actually shot Button Gwinnett in a duel, for $3500 on Ebay.

On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty, led by Patriot Sam Adams, boarded three British ships in Boston harbor and threw tea worth $700,000 to $1 million in today’s money into the water in what came to be known as the Boston Tea Party.

Boston Tea Party

Governor George Towns signed legislation on December 16, 1847 to build a State School for the Deaf and Dumb. The institution now known as the Georgia School for the Deaf was begun with a log cabin, $5000 from the legislature and four students and is still in operation in Cave Spring, Georgia.

On December 16, 1897, Gov. William Atkinson signed legislation recognizing June 3, the birthday of Jefferson Davis, as a state holiday.

On December 16, 1944, a German counterattack in the Ardennes region of Belgium created a “bulge” in Allied lines with particularly difficult fighting near the town of Bastogne. During the Battle of the Bulge, 89,000 Americans were wounded and 19,000 killed in the bloodiest battle fought by the U.S. in World War II. National Geographic has an interesting article published for the 70th Anniversary of the Battle.

President Jimmy Carter announced on December 16, 1976, that he would name Andrew Young, then serving as Congressman from Georgia’s Fifth District, as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today we begin with two Star Wars: The Force Awakens political mashups.

The biggest local news in Brookhaven is that Google is hard at work building out its fiber network, with construction of a Fiber Hut at Blackburn Park. Google Fiber can’t get here quickly enough. If they’re having trouble siting their hut closest to me, I have a suggestion for a parcel owned by a utility company.Continue Reading..

15
Dec

Governor Nathan Deal Receives 2015 Champion of Justice Award from the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association

Atlanta, GA – The Georgia Trial Lawyers Association is pleased to announce that Governor Nathan Deal has been named the recipient of the 2015 Champion of Justice Award. This award, which is given at the direction of the GTLA President, recognizes an individual’s tireless and often-historic work to advance the cause of justice in Georgia.

“On behalf of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association’s 2,000 members across the state, I’d like to congratulate Governor Nathan Deal on his receipt of this well-deserved honor,” remarked GTLA President Darren Penn. “Since taking office in 2011, Governor Deal has exhibited a unique understanding of the vital role that the justice system plays in our society. As a lawyer, a former judge and a proud father of a judge, he brings a perspective to the Governor’s Office that has guided him through many tough decisions affecting our state’s legal system.”Continue Reading..

15
Dec

Adoptable Georgia Dogs for December 15, 2015

Remi

Remi is a young female Labrador Retriever mix with a gorgeous brindle and white coat who is available for adoption from Street Paws, Inc. in McDonough, GA.

Yoki

Yoki is an adult female Labrador Retriever mix who is available for adoption from TLC Pet Rescue in Stockbridge, GA.

My name is Yoki and I am a fun loving goofy 3 year old Lab mix. I love to hide my bones in the yard to save for later. I also enjoy walks, as i’m good on a leash. Due to some anxiety, I would do best in a home with no small children, but I am pretty good with the bigger ones. I like other dogs, too! I love to snuggle close to my humans while I sleep, but I will go in the crate if you tell me to. I won’t chew your furniture or shoes, just the toys and bones you choose to give me. I can sit, speak and shake on command! I can probably learn some really cool tricks if you would teach me. I am a really good girl and I just want someone to give me a home I can call my own.

I am spayed, UTD on all my shots and heartworm negative!

Please email [email protected] if you’re interested in adopting me! I can’t wait to meet you!

Molley

Molly is an 8-year old German Shepherd with a striking white coat, and is available for adoption from K9 Angels ( small dog rescue) in Stockbridge, GA. It appears she gets along well with other dogs.

Molley deserves a loving family where she is well cared for. The owners had to give her up due to health problems but almost killed her with treats so molly is trying to lose some weight….she is house trained and great with other dogs…

Please consider Molley for your family…

15
Dec

Josh McKoon filed English-language Constitutional Amendment

via Press Release:

Sen. Josh McKoon Pre-Files Legislation Reinforcing English As The Official Language of State Government

ATLANTA (December 14, 2015)  |  On Thursday, December 10, 2015, Sen. Josh McKoon (R – Columbus) pre-filed Senate Resolution 675, which would add an amendment to Georgia’s constitution declaring English as the official language of the state government.Continue Reading..

15
Dec

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 15, 2015

On December 15, 1791, Virginia ratified the Bill of Rights, giving the first ten Amendments a three-quarter majority required to become law.

On December 15, 1859, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown signed legislation outlawing public execution of criminals. The previous day he signed legislation prohibiting slave owners from freeing their slaves on the owner’s death.

President Jimmy Carter announced on December 15, 1978 that U.S. diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China would begin on January 1, 1979.

The United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee released a report on Dcember 15, 1998 that recommended impeachment against President Bill Clinton and introduced H.Res. 611.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

In Henry County, the Mayor of Stockbridge, Tim Thompson, left office after a City Council session devolved into a discussion of his temper.

Back in March, Thompson was accused of threatening to fight the mayor pro tem in the parking lot.

The City Council ordered an investigation and asked Thompson to undergo anger management courses. He says he met with his pastors, starting the day after.

“I didn’t really go about it the right way. For that, I’m extremely sorry,” Thompson said.

Monday evening, former and future council members gave harsh critiques of the mayor.

Thompson told 11Alive he resigned because of a hostile environment at the city.

After he announced his resignation, Thompson said, “All I ever wanted was the best for the City of Stockbridge,” but added, “I got my life back.”

Thompson was supposed to be the city’s mayor until 2017, according to the City of Stockbridge’s website.

Governor Nathan Deal received the 2015 Champion of Justice Award from the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. Writing for the AJC Political Insider, Greg Bluestein contextualized the relationship between GTLA and Republicans,

Trial lawyers enthusiastically supported some of his biggest legislative initiatives, including his criminal justice overhauls.

The association’s president, Darren Penn, cited his support for legislation that gives child sexual abuse victims more time to pursue civil lawsuits against their abusers and “a strong track record of appointing highly-qualified judges” to openings.

Penn said there’s another reason for the show of support for Georgia’s top Republican: The trial lawyers association has become more bipartisan as GOP rule became more entrenched here.

Former State House Majority Leader Larry Walker wrote an open letter to his son, Larry Walker, III, who was recently elected to the State Senate. It should be required reading for all newly-elected officials.

Georgia Democrats continue to struggle to field a 2016 candidate against United States Senator Johnny Isakson, according to an article out of McClatchey’s Washington operation.

 “To even have a chance to unseat him, they would need to run someone that’s a quality challenger,” said M.V. Hood, a political science professor at the University of Georgia. “Someone that’s got political experience, elected office-holding experience – and it doesn’t look like they have anyone who wants to jump into the fray.”

Potential Democratic challengers who’ve passed on the chance to challenge Isakson include state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, state Reps. Stacey Evans and Margaret Kaiser, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Hood thinks viable Democratic candidates may be simply waiting to run for an open seat. “They’re waiting for a better opportunity. That’s not uncommon,” he said.

But part of their reluctance could stem from Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn’s 8 percentage point loss to Republican David Perdue in 2014, said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

“I think the problem they face is, ‘If Michelle Nunn can’t win, then who can win?’ That makes recruiting really hard,” Duffy said.

Howard Franklin, a Democratic strategist in Atlanta, expects a slight dropoff among Georgia’s black voters next year without Obama on the ballot. But “the combination of direct mail, urban radio and telephone calls has proven effective at bringing black voter turnout in line with other ethnic groups, regardless of whether the White House is in play,” Franklin said in an email.

Duffy said it’s no coincidence that Democrats are courting a number of black candidates to run against Isakson, in hopes of replicating Georgia’s strong black turnout in 2008 and 2012. But Franklin said ethnicity alone won’t be enough.

“In 2014, Georgia Democrats fielded a historic statewide ticket featuring five African-American women – the backbone of the Democratic coalition – but it didn’t translate into success at the polls. Candidates still have to raise impressive sums, build a statewide apparatus and offer voters a clear choice on Election Day,” Franklin wrote.

I would argue that the lesson of 2014 and of the 2015 election in HD 80, the most heavily-contested race between a Democrat and a Republican this year, is that a candidate without prior political experience may be the best candidate.

Whenever state legislators have dollar signs in their eyes and Scrooge McDuck fantasies of swimming through the state coffers, you can assume we’re all about to get Scrooge McDucked.

That’s what it looks like to me when lawmakers are debating tax rates on casino gambling before addressing the merits of legalizing it. From WABE,

 Casinos will likely pay Georgia more than the 12 percent tax on gross gaming income included in pending legislation (House Bill 677) that would change the state constitution to allow casino gambling.

State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), the main sponsor of the legislation, said he’s worried a high tax rate could scare away the big-name casinos.

“You don’t get the reinvestment back into the facilities to keep it looking fresh and to keep people coming,” he said.

Stephens acknowledged that the 12 percent rate is negotiable.

“I believe 12 and 25 percent is the correct number and we all need to decide what that number is going to be.”

State Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) is behind a push to expand scholarship programs with casino tax money.

She said the tax rate in the current legislation needs to change.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be. I’m not going to pretend to sit here and know the answer. But it’s higher than 12,” she said.

That’s how I know the legislature is more likely to legalize casino gambling than growing cannabis – they’re talking about how much to tax casinos but not cannabis.

Four candidates so far are campaigning to replace Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle, who is not seeking reelection, according to BigCanoeNews.com.

The candidates are Jeff Johnson, Tony Wooten, Frank Sosebee and Jeff Perry.

Jeff Johnson has been a county resident for over 31 years. He is married to Lisa Hodge of Dawson County and they have two children together.

“As a county resident for over 31 years, I have invested interest in our people, our county, and our safety. This is where I work, where I worship and where I play,” said Johnson.

Johnson has nearly 23 years of experience serving in both a Sheriff’s Office and Police Department capacity.

Hit the full article for more on all of the candidates, but it’s a strong field. I totalled up 98 years of law enforcement among the four candidates.

State Senator Michael Williams (R-Forsyth County) will hold a Town Hall meeting at West Forsyth High School on January 11, 2016 at 7 PM.

State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) has pre-filed legislation to put on the statewide ballot a Constitutional Amendment affirming English as the official language of Georgia state government.

English is the tie that binds us as Americans and is the indisputable language of success in the United States. This idea has been sound public policy in our state for over a decade,” said Sen. McKoon. “All this resolution would do is strengthen what our state’s position currently is and commit that position to our state constitution.”

Georgia passed a bill declaring English the official language during the 1996 legislative session. The resolution would add an amendment to the state constitution reinforcing the measure as the official language of the state government. A constitutional amendment would require voter ratification after being passed by the House and Senate.

The resolution requires that state records, services and official notices be maintained in English. Other languages may be used in many instances outlined in the measure including protecting public health, crime victims and criminal defendants as well as teaching English.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has released a report on how the agency released 12 CDs containing personal information about all registered voters in Georgia.

The 30-page report is the fullest accounting yet from Kemp’s office after a lawsuit filed last month revealed nearly 6.2 million voters’ Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers and birth dates had been released to media outlets and political parties.

The report, produced by two of Kemp’s deputies, faulted an employee in the office’s Information Technology Division for violating policies and procedures, being unclear with a contractor and giving another employee his login to access a file containing voters’ information.

Gov. Nathan Deal also signed an executive order Monday appointing three private-practice lawyers as special attorneys general representing Kemp in the lawsuit filed by two Georgia voters. No cost estimate was provided.

Deal’s executive order said Attorney General Sam Olens and the Georgia Department of Law declined to represent Kemp “due to the potential conflict of interest.” A spokesman for Olens said the office’s consumer protection responsibilities could cause a conflict.

Georgia officials have a new vendor for mailing out car tag renewal notices, thought the first batches won’t include the traditional blue return envelopes, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The state Department of Revenue’s Motor Vehicles Division has contracted with a new vendor to print out the notices that are mailed out as reminders to update registration. Since September, many vehicle owners in Georgia had not been receiving notices after World Marketing, the company that printed them, shut down.

Bibb County Tax Commissioner Wade McCord said he was notified by state officials that people with January birthdays could have their notices mailed out this week.

The Georgia Baptist Convention opposes opening in-state growing of cannabis to provide CBD-oil to Georgia patients allowed the drug, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Mike Griffin said he doesn’t believe that lawmakers are trying to pave the way for recreational marijuana use.

Even so, the spokesman for the Georgia Baptist Convention fears it will happen if cannabis is legally grown in Georgia, which he calls an “incremental step” toward liberalized drug laws.

“Cultivation of marijuana in our state, even for medical purposes, pushes us to a line that will be impossible to maintain,” Griffin, who is also a pastor, said Wednesday to the state’s Commission on Medical Cannabis.

The first right whale calves of the season have been spotted with one mother and calf off the coast of Georgia and another pair off the coast of Florida.

A whale nicknamed Harmony was resting and nursing her calf 10 miles east of Jekyll Island on Thursday, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission aerial survey crew reported. The team saw the other pair near St. Augustine, just a mile and a half off Ponte Vedra on the same day.

Scientists estimate there are as few as 465 right whales remaining, making them among the rarest marine mammals in the world. Every winter, pregnant females travel more than 1,000 miles from their feeding grounds off Canada and New England to the coastal waters of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida’s east coast. Here right whales give birth and nurse their young. The mother whales are about the size of a school bus; the newborns are closer to car-sized. Last season, researchers documented 17 newborn calves.

The population of these critically endangered animals appeared to increasing slowly, but documented births have trailed off over the last five years to an average of 15 a year; that number was 24 a year in the prior decade. Also, fewer nonpregnant whales seem to be traveling to Georgia and Florida. Researchers counted nearly 200 of these other whales in years past.

As they did last year, Georgia researchers plan to tag up to five whales with satellite tags. If they’re successful, the public may be able to follow the whales’ journeys online with a DNR-supported website similar to a popular shark tracking site.

In 1985, a joint resolution of the General Assembly designated the Right Whale the Official Marine Mammal of Georgia.

Train enthusiasts in Macon are working to restore a steam locomotive that has stood in Central City Park and have it under steam by the 100th Anniversary of Macon’s Terminal Station in October of next year.

In 509′s heyday in the 1900s, the train was operated by Central of Georgia Railroad, a name that remains intact on the side of the locomotive.

Macon-Bibb Mayor Robert Reichert said Friday that its a significant undertaking to restore a train like the 509 and that he hopes the nonprofit can pull it through.