Tag: Brian Kemp

17
Jan

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for January 17, 2012

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MurrayBlackLab

This ten-month old black-and-brindle lab mix will be euthanized at 1 AM Friday if no one steps up to foster or rescue him. Volunteers with the Murray County Animal Shelter says that while he has sad eyes, he’s a happy, calm, and gentle dog who will make a great pet. Transportation is available for this guy or any other dog at Murray County. The $115 adoption fee covers the cost for vetting, shots, heartworm check, and neutering. If you’re interested in fostering, the Shelter has several rescues it works with to facilitate foster homes. Email Lisa Hester or call 770-441-0329 if you can help.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The National Republican Congressional Committee will continue to play Elmer Fudd to Georgia Democratic Congressman John Barrow’s Bugs Bunny, announcing yet again that they’re hunting wabbits targeting Barrow. Occasional Georgia resident Rob Simms, recently named Political Director for the NRCC, may have a better chance of catching the wascal beating Barrow.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has subpoenaed five Fulton County Elections Board officials to appear before a State Elections Board investigation into mishaps in last year’s voting and requested production of documents.

He says he had no choice.“I felt like we were not getting the type of cooperation we needed in getting documents that we needed to be ready for the hearing.”

Josh McKoon GaPundit Ethics Video

Senator Josh McKoon took a few minutes to discuss the Senate Rules, specifically the limitation on who can file a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee and what voters who feel shut out from filing a complaint can do. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Congratulations to Judge Carla Wong McMillian on her appointment by Governor Nathan Deal to the Georgia Court of Appeals. Judge McMillian, who served on the Fayette County State Court, is the first Asian-American judge on the state’s appellate court.

On Wednesday, January 23d, members of the state judiciary will be presenting their budget requests to the General Assembly.

The House Judiciary (Non-Civil) Committee will meet Friday, January 18th from 9:30 to 11 AM in Room 132 of the Capitol.

When the Georgia Senate convenes today for the Fourth Legislative Day, the first and only bill on the calendar will be Senate Bill 24, which delegates to the Department of Community Health the power to levy the so-called hospital bed tax.

Gov. Nathan Deal urged the quick passage of a Medicaid funding plan that would spare legislators from raising taxes and instead allow a state agency to fill the gaping hole in Georgia’s budget.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston on Wednesday also endorsed the governor’s plan to extend the 2-year-old funding mechanism, known as the “bed tax,” despite criticism from conservatives who oppose tax increases. The plan is expected to reach a Senate vote Thursday, and House lawmakers could debate it later this month.

Yesterday, Governor Nathan Deal presented his legislative agenda to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues Breakfast.

We have had one of the best years of economic development in quite some time. A few notable companies that have chosen Georgia include Baxter, General Motors, and Caterpillar, along with numerous others. We did this with your help, with both the private and the public sector doing their parts!

As governor, my goal is to see Georgia become the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business. I have made that clear from the beginning, because I believe that is the best path to economic growth and the quickest way to get Georgians into jobs.  And we are not all that far off from reaching our target: For two years in a row, we have ranked in the top five for business climate by Site Selection Magazine, and we ranked No. 3 for doing business in 2012 by Area Development Magazine. But we certainly still have some hurdles that we must overcome before we get there.

This morning I will focus my remarks on one of the highest hurdles facing state government, that of healthcare.

Right now, the federal government pays a little under 66 cents for every dollar of Medicaid expenditure, leaving the state with the remaining 34 cents per dollar, which in 2012 amounted to $2.5B as the state share.
For the past three years, hospitals have been contributing their part to help generate funds to pay for medical costs of the Medicaid program. Every dollar they have given has essentially resulted in two additional dollars from the federal government that in part can be used to increase Medicaid payments to the hospitals. But the time has come to determine whether they will continue their contribution through the provider fee. I have been informed that 10 to 14 hospitals will be faced with possible closure if the provider fee does not continue. These are hospitals that serve a large number of Medicaid patients.
I propose giving the Department of Community Health board authority over the hospital provider fee, with the stipulation that reauthorization be required every four years by legislation.
Of course, these fees are not new. In fact, we are one of 47 states that have either a nursing home or hospital provider fee—or both. It makes sense to me that, in Georgia, given the similarity of these two fees, we should house the authority and management of both of them under one roof for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
Sometimes it feels like when we have nearly conquered all of our hurdles, the federal government begins to place even more hurdles in our path.
Georgians who have already received a paycheck this January have no doubt noticed that their payroll taxes went up and their take-home salary went down. This is the cost of entitlements. If you think your taxes went up a lot this month, just wait till we have to pay for “free health care.” Free never cost so much.

Governor Deal also mentioned that he has “a tweeter account” as the staffer in charge of social media cringed in the back.

Deal said he will work to ensure that state agencies are cooperating with and fully performing background checks for gun permits as required under federal law.

Best line of the day goes to Georgia Speaker David Ralston, who referred to the Senate’s new gift cap as “more of a sun visor than a cap.”

Speaker Ralston responded to the Senate’s opening bid on ethics reform by repeating that he favors a complete ban.

Ralston says House lawmakers plan to propose a permanent change regarding lobbyist gifts in the near future. Ralston plans to introduce legislation that would include a complete ban on items given by lobbyists.

One of the largest criticisms of the new Senate rule is that there are a number of exceptions. For instance, the law allows lobbyists to give multiple gifts that are $100 or less. It also allows for lobbyists to pay for travel and a number of other expenses related to Senators’ official duties.

Jim Galloway suggests that in exchange for ethics reform today, legislators may seek a pay raise tomorrow when the economy improves.

We need to start paying a decent salary to these 236 lawmakers sent to Atlanta each year.

The idea was considered and ultimately discarded by the alliance of conservatives, liberals and civic-minded pushing this year’s $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers.

Newly-minted State Senator Mike Dugan would like to see term limits for state legislators.

Dugan said repeatedly on the campaign trail that he hopes to introduce term limits in the General Assembly. He hopes to work toward this goal in 2013.

“What I’d like is a maximum of 10 years, which is five terms,” Dugan said. “The longest a person can be president is 10 years.

He can assume two years of a predecessor’s term and run for two terms on his own. My thought process is this can’t be more complicated than being president. If we limit that position then I think we can limit these others. There are also term limits on the Georgia governor.”

If 10 years are served, Dugan feels it should be required that a legislator sit out two terms, or four years, before running again.

“The common refrain is that we do have term limits — they are called voters,” said Dugan. “The way campaign contributions are set up now it’s really not that way. The other side is, if you have 10 years to get something done, instead of worrying about getting reelected in perpetuity you will actually make the tough decisions.”

Senator Mike Crane apparently is seeking instead to limit his own effectiveness among his colleagues.

State Sen. Mike Crane, R-Newnan, started the 2013 Georgia General Assembly session off with a bang when he became the most vocal opponent of a set of rules that would restore much of the power that Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle was stripped of two years ago.

“This may be the end of my political aspirations, but I will never stop fighting for liberty,” Crane said on the Senate floor.

On Tuesday, the second day of the session, Crane reiterated his position.

Crane addressed his colleagues and told them he would bring up the matter each of the remaining 38 days in the legislative session.

“Do you think freedom is at the helm of this body?” he asked.

After Crane’s comments, Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, expressed exasperation with his fellow sophomore. Both were elected in special elections to complete terms of men Gov. Nathan Deal appointed to state jobs.

“I think we need to decide if we’re more interested in getting things done or in making a point,” he said, noting that the rule empowering Cagle had already been voted on and was settled.

Sen. Bill Jackson, R-Appling, stood up to add, “I just wanted to say ‘amen’ to what Sen. Wilkinson for what he said.”

State Representative Dee Dawkins-Haigler (D-Lithonia) was elected Chair of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus.

“They don’t think that anybody is going to buy into it this year,” said Kay Godwin, a Republican activist from south Georgia. “It’s not the right time, but it’s the right thing to do. We’ve mentioned to everybody that this is the direction that we want to go in. The legislators all agree with us. And the tea party.”

If you get what you pay for, then Georgians should have no reason to complain. They’ve been paying for an army of fry cooks and dishwashers.

The problem is that lawmakers themselves are loathe to raise the pay issue. “I’m not going to vote for an increase in legislative pay when I have school teachers in every district that I represent who are being furloughed,” said state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, the Capitol’s most aggressive proponent of a $100 cap on gifts for lawmakers.

No, livable wages for state lawmakers would have to be an issue taken up by a fellow with plenty of clout and little to lose. A governor in his second term, for instance.

Big wins by the Atlanta Falcons would likely help them make the case for taxpayer funding of a new stadium, according to Governor Deal.

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin will serve as a Visiting Professor in Ethics and Political Values at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.

House Republicans may begin moving forward on the project of trimming the footprint of Fulton County government, as GOPers now constitute a majority on the Fulton County delegation after redistricting.

Passing legislation that would allow north Fulton to break away to form a new Milton County remains impractical, mainly because the idea’s most powerful advocate, House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, has never been able to assemble enough votes.

More doable this year: a reconfiguration of the County Commission that would give north Fulton more input into the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax funds and services for nearly 1 million people.

The Legislature could also beef up the powers of the commission chairman and protect the county manager from being fired without cause, changes that could lessen the circus atmosphere of public meetings.

Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, said such structural changes won’t end the push for secession.

“Maybe lessen the steam,” he said. “Trying to get Milton County has several hurdles that nobody’s figured out how to get around. So in the meantime, let’s make what we have work better.”

The City of Buchanan will put Sunday Sales on the March 19th ballot.

The investigation into possible corruption in DeKalb County is now focussing on six companies that made millions from the County, while CEO Burrell Ellis’s former campaign manager Kevin Ross has also been the target of a seach warrant.

Gwinnett County Chair Charlotte Nash made fighting corruption and restoring the county government’s reputation cornerstones of her State of the County address.

“I am appalled to hear Gwinnett County and corruption mentioned together,” said Nash, who joined the board after a special grand jury’s land investigation led to the public disgrace of two commissioners but faced the issue again when a commissioner pleaded guilty in a federal bribery probe last year. “Wrongdoing by leaders hurts the community, breaks the public trust and embarrasses all of those who call Gwinnett home.”

Nash pointed to changes in the county’s ethics and land purchase laws during her time in office, but said commissioners will keep working to restore trust with citizens.

“We know that we’ll have to work hard to overcome this, and we’ve taken steps to do just that,” she said. “Ultimately, it will be our behavior over time that will help us regain the community’s trust.”

This year, she said, the board will continue to try to restore public trust by hosting town hall meetings. Plus, commissioners approved a new lead investigator for the district attorney’s office, added specifically to root out corruption among public officials. She also noted the new non-profit entity created to keep public dollars separate and transparent in the Partnerhips Gwinnett economic development initiative.

An historic reduction in crime statistics in Savannah may be the result of cooked books rather than better enforcement, according to some Aldermen.

Alderman Tony Thomas, saying he had at least six constituent complaints to support his claim, leveled that allegation during Tuesday’s annual City Council retreat.

“I do not think the picture is as rosy as has been painted,” Thomas said. “We need to paint a real picture of what’s going on in this community.”

Mayor Pro Tem Van Johnson said he has received similar complaints about officers trying to dissuade citizens from filing reports or complaints about officers who are slow to respond.

“They are under tremendous pressure to bring statistics down,” Johnson said.

26
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 26, 2012

Harley is obviously a big, scary Pit Bull right?

Or maybe he’s the awesomest-looking little low rider brindle basset mix. He’s pretty popular with the volunteers at Walton County Animal Services, where he’s available for adoption for $40. They write that he’s very friendly, good with other dogs and loves to play.

Someone emailed me yesterday to ask what the connection is between rescue dogs and Georgia politics, and frankly there isn’t much of one until now. It’s appalling that Georgia has so many dogs and cats that thousands are euthanized every year in shelters across the state. FixGeorgiaPets.org estimates that 300,000 dogs and cats are put down in the state every year at a cost of more than $100 million to taxpayers. In a civilized state that’s not okay.

Meanwhile, other states like Minnesota must not have enough shelter dogs because they’re importing ours.

So here’s the Georgia Pundit Policy Challenge for 2012-2013. Help us come up with a proposal or two that can be taken to members of the General Assembly that would reduce the number of euthanasias performed, promote pet spay/neuter, or make it easier to rescue and adopt. The best chance of getting something that will be taken seriously is for it to be a conservative idea that relies as little as possible on the state’s police powers, or saves taxpayer dollars, or reduces regulations. Email me your ideas and we’ll see if we can come up with something.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced 150 new jobs and $150 million in investments in Floyd County, GA when Foss Manufacturing Company opens a new manufacturing and distribution center.

“Northwest Georgia remains a strategic home for the textile manufacturing industry, complete with the business environment and skilled workforce to help this industry continue its recovery in our state,” said Deal. “I am encouraged by the commitment Foss Manufacturing is making in Floyd County, and look forward to the contributions this company will make to one of Georgia’s major industries. I am glad to welcome Foss to Georgia.”

Foss is one of the world’s largest needle-punch based manufacturers, and supports its customers’ needs with patented technology driven solutions. The company has strong relationships with a diverse range of customers including major retailers and leading automotive brands.

“We are very excited about our decision to expand our operations and locate in Rome, and look forward to great success,” Foss CEO AJ Nassar said.

At its Rome operation, Foss will manufacture and distribute medical masks, hospital apparel and linens and automotive and filtration products. The company will occupy the former Mohawk building in Floyd County.

“It is always great news for our community when we secure a new company with such a diverse customer base,” said Rome Mayor Evie McNiece. “We are happy that at least 150 people will directly benefit from this positive use of a former manufacturing building.”

Near Savannah, Matson Logistics is expanding its warehouses and adding 40 jobs.

Matson’s expansion locally is a testament to the economic value of the Georgia Port Authority’s Garden City Terminal, said Curtis Foltz, the port’s executive director.

“Increasingly the Port of Savannah area is a strategic market for third-party logistics warehouse and distribution operations,” Foltz said. “Locating in proximity to the ports makes for a more efficient business model, allowing greater flexibility and utilization of company assets.”

Logistics operations are a growing sector of the Savannah economy. Several companies have built, expanded or announced plans to do business in the area in recent years.

The Judicial Nominating Commission named four nominees to a short list for Governor Deal’s consideration for the Gwinnett County Superior Court vacancy created when Deal elevated Judge Billy Ray to the Court of Appeals.

  • George F. Hutchinson, III – Chief Magistrate Judge; Gwinnett County
  • John S. Melvin – Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney, DeKalb County
  • Randy Rich – Judge, State Court of Gwinnett County
  • Robert D. Walker, Jr. – Judge, Magistrate Court of Gwinnett County

One commenter noted that the JNC traditionally names five nominees to short lists, and wondered if this was intended to convey a message about someone who was not short-listed. Or maybe it’s the beginning of a new tradition, as the JNC recently sent a short list of four nominees for Cobb County Superior Court.

  • Maria B. Golick – Judge, State Court of Cobb County, Division I
  • Robert D. Leonard, II – Judge, State Court of Cobb County, Division II
  • Juanita P. Stedman – Judge, Juvenile Court of Cobb County
  • Mark S. VanderBroek – Partner, Troutman Sanders LLP

The JNC might get a chance to compile a short list to fill a vacancy on Bibb County Superior Court as Judge Howard Simms is suspected of DUI for the second time in just over two years.

The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office launched an internal investigation Tuesday morning following a Saturday night roadblock on Lamar Road in west Bibb County where Simms was stopped. The roadblock was a part of the multi-agency Rolling Thunder traffic operation Friday and Saturday.

Chief Deputy David Davis said the investigation seeks to determine whether Simms was under the influence of alcohol and the circumstances surrounding his interaction with Bibb County deputies.

So far, Davis said, information gathered in the investigation suggests Simms took an alcohol breath test and registered 0.083. The legal limit in Georgia is 0.08. As part of the investigation, deputies are seeking to verify Simms’ breath test result, he said.

Generally, deputies administer field sobriety tests only if they smell alcohol, see a container of alcohol after stopping a vehicle or if the driver shows signs of impairment, Davis said.

“For them to have administered any kind of roadside field sobriety test, the officer who stopped him and had first contact with him must have seen something or smelled something that made him think alcohol could have been in use,” Davis said.

If the investigation confirms Simms registered 0.083 on the breath test, the sheriff’s office will confer with the Bibb County solicitor to determine whether an arrest warrant will be issued, Davis said.

Simms, a former district attorney, issued a statement early Tuesday afternoon saying he was not charged with a crime after stopping at the roadblock and that he returned home “under his own power.”

He cleared his court calendar Tuesday to make arrangements to enter an inpatient alcohol addiction treatment facility, according to the statement.

The judge, who is elected by voters from Bibb, Crawford and Peach counties, had been scheduled to preside over jury selection in an aggravated assault case in Bibb County Superior Court.

The prosecutor and defense attorney for the aggravated assault case said they received word Tuesday morning that Simms had postponed the case until the next trial term.

Simms has reported to the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission information regarding Saturday night’s events and his decision to enter a treatment facility, according to his statement.

The JQC is the state agency that investigates judges’ behavior and issues punishment when warranted. Attempts to contact the JQC were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Chatham County Juvenile Court Judge John Beam, Jr. has retired after 32 years. Lisa Goldwire Colbert will take his place on the bench. Current Judge Patricia Stone will now serve as presiding judge of the court.

The GBI is NOT investigating allegations on the interwebs that Chip Rogers profited from reimbursements by the legislature for expenses related to official mailings to his constituents.

GBI Spokesman John Bankhead confirmed that the state investigating agency, at press time, was not looking into the allegations against Rogers.

“The GBI has not been requested by a legal authority to investigate the allegations,” Bankhead said Monday.

Candidates for Senate District 30, recently vacated by former Sen. Bill Hamrick, discussed the Charter School Amendment at a forum hosted by the Carroll County Tea Party. The leading candidate, State Rep. Bill Hembree said he supports the Amendment

Hembree, who resigned his House seat this month to campaign for the Senate, said he fully supports the charter school amendment and he will vote for it, if elected.

“No local funds will be used for state charter schools, that’s in the bill,” Hembree said. “There will be no reduction in state funding for local schools. The local schools can still create charter schools.”

He said charter schools would have to be reviewed by local boards before they are submitted to the state.

“The state role is to provide a checks and balance system,” he said.

Hembree said he believes in public, private, homes and charter schools, and the online option of virtual schools.

“For every kid, there’s different options,” he said. “That’s the way it needs to be. In the state of Georgia, we’re just trying to get those options and make them available.”

Former Speaker Glenn Richardson also supports the Amendment.

Richardson said he counted three of the other candidates on the fence and said it’s an issue where you can’t be on the fence.

“I intend to vote yes,” he said. “I support every time you give a parent a choice on how to educate their child. I hear cries of educators who say we’re going to take money away from schools. It’s not about money, it’s about kids. Why would you vote against parents starting a charter school?”

He said the General Assembly tried passing a charter school law, but the courts ruled that money couldn’t be given to charter schools without a constitutional amendment.

“It’s not an attack on educators, but a chance to give parents a choice,” he said.

The University of Georgia’s University Council will vote on whether employment benefits should be extended to domestic partners.

SACS, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, is once again warning Clayton County that it is the most embarrassing county in Georgia is at risk of losing its school system’s accreditation.

The accrediting agency revoked the district’s accreditation in 2009. In its letter Tuesday, SACS President Mark Elgart cited concerns about conflicts between board members.

The school system has until Jan. 15 to respond to the concerns before the accrediting agency decides whether to investigate the board’s actions.

Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell has proposed that the County “disinvest[] all funds managed by, for and on behalf of Hall County and any ancillary components of Hall County, in any company with active business operations in the petroleum and energy industry in Iran or Sudan; and for other purposes.”

Republican Freddie Sanders says he’s more qualified than his Democratic opponent to run the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

Sanders, a Republican, said the difference between him and his Democratic opponent, Richmond County school Public Safety Lt. Richard Roundtree, is that he has the experience and the knowledge to run a department with a $56 million budget.

“This is not about race, and this is not about party. This is about qualifications,” he said.

Sanders, an attorney who last wore a police uniform 27 years ago, said that his critics – including Roundtree – have implied that he comes form another generation and that he isn’t familiar with modern technology. He said he defied anyone to test him.

Sanders said his campaign had tried to get Roundtree to show up at several events, including Tuesday’s meeting, to debate him of those issues, but his opponent has always declined.

“I want him to show up somewhere and debate me and tell me what I don’t know about the Richmond County sheriff’s department,” he said.

Cherokee County voters had a chance to learn about the proposed HOST Homestead Option Sales Tax that, if passed, will levy an additional penny sales tax and apply the proceeds to reducing property taxes.

Cherokee County Commissioners have invited the GBI to investigate issues surrounding Ball Ground Recycling.

At the Sept. 18 county commission meeting, commissioners unanimously approved their official response to Grand Jury recommendations following its investigation of the failed Ball Ground Recycling (BGR) venture by businessman Jimmy Bobo, which the county approved backing with an $18.1 million resource recovery bond issue.

Since Bobo filed bankruptcy in May, the county has been responsible for paying the $100,000-a-month debt service on the bonds. Currently, the tally on county taxpayers for the failed venture is $2 million. The property and the operation, according to the terms of the lease with Bobo, have reverted to the county’s ownership.

The county has obtained an appraisal of the BGR facilities and equipment, which it is utilizing in its negotiations with prospective new operators and/or owners. The estimated value of the operation is $10 million, County Manager Jerry Cooper said.

Forsyth County Tea Party Patriots Alliance will hold a roundtable for candidates for the Seventh and Ninth Congressional Districts on Thursday, September 27th, beginning at 7 PM at the Forsyth County Administration Building. Twelfth District Congressional candidate Lee Anderson won’t attend that one either.

Bibb and Monroe Counties continue to dispute the exact border between the jurisdictions.

Monroe County had filed a lawsuit challenging a decision by Georgia’s secretary of state in Bibb’s favor, but that lawsuit was dismissed Friday in Fulton County Superior Court.

Bibb County Attorney Virgil Adams said the judge’s decision was not surprising because the law gives the secretary of state final say-so in border disputes. However, Adams says Monroe County officials only filed the lawsuit to “craft a back door avenue for an appeal.”

“I’m sure they’re going to appeal to the state Court of Appeals,” he said. “They’re trying to back door an appeal because the statute that deals with border disputes does not provide for appeals.”

Bibb County was added to the lawsuit between Monroe County and Secretary of State Brian Kemp in which Monroe sought to overturn Kemp’s ruling that rejected a border survey favored by Monroe officials. Kemp said that two surveys should have been provided.

The border’s location has been in dispute for decades. The state Legislature set the boundary in 1822, with a corner on the Ocmulgee River. The legislation is ambiguous about whether there was one ferry site or two, among other questions.

Caught in the dispute are residents, infrastructure and part of Bass Pro Shops. Kemp said the missing 1822 survey made it harder to decide where the border is supposed to be.

In a filing in Fulton County Superior Court, Bibb County said that should it lose the dispute, the tax hit to the county government, county schools and unincorporated county fire tax would be exactly $1,376,591.

Ends & Pieces

The New York Times has an interesting article on a threat to long-standing Geechee/Gullah families on Sapelo Island.

These Creole-speaking descendants of slaves have long held their land as a touchstone, fighting the kind of development that turned Hilton Head and St. Simons Islands into vacation destinations. Now, stiff county tax increases driven by a shifting economy, bureaucratic bumbling and the unyielding desire for a house on the water have them wondering if their community will finally succumb to cultural erosion.

“The whole thing just smells,” said Jasper Watts, whose mother, Annie Watts, 73, still owns the three-room house with a tin roof that she grew up in.

She paid $362 in property taxes last year for the acre she lives on. This year, McIntosh County wants $2,312, a jump of nearly 540 percent.

Where real estate is concerned, history is always on the minds of the Geechees, who live in a place called Hog Hammock. It is hard for them not to be deeply suspicious of the tax increase and wonder if, as in the past, they are being nudged even further to the fringes.

Theirs is the only private land left on the island, almost 97 percent of which is owned by the state and given over to nature preserves, marine research projects and a plantation mansion built in 1802.

The relationship between Sapelo Island residents and county officials has long been strained, especially over race and development. In July, the community relations division of the Justice Department held two meetings with residents to address charges of racial discrimination. A department spokesman said the meetings were confidential and would not comment.

Neither would the chief tax appraiser, Rick Daniel, or other elected county officials. But Brett Cook, who manages the county and its only city, Darien, says local government does a lot to support the Geechee culture.

“It’s a wonderful history and a huge draw for our ecotourism,” he said.

This summer, he pointed out, the county worked with the Smithsonian to host a festival that culminated in a concert with members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters, who practice a style of singing and hand claps developed by slaves.

State Senator William Ligon, who represents the county and is a real estate lawyer, suggests that residents file a lawsuit if they do not get relief.

“In an economy where property values have been declining, I think I would want to look very, very closely at what had been done at the county level,” he said.

None of that offers immediate relief to residents who have tax bills piled up on kitchen tables and in desk drawers.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that will allow driverless cars on California’s roadways. Of course he took a ride in a driverless Prius to celebrate the occasion.

The bill by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla will establish safety and performance regulations to test and operate autonomous vehicles on state roads and highways.

“Today we’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality — the self-driving car,” Brown said. “Anyone who gets inside a car and finds out the car is driving will be a little skittish, but they’ll get over it.”

Google Inc. has been developing autonomous car technology and lobbying for the regulations. The company’s fleet of a dozen computer-controlled vehicles has logged more than 300,000 miles of self-driving without an accident, according to Google.

“I think the self-driving car can really dramatically improve the quality of life for everyone,” Google co-founder Sergey Brin said.

Autonomous cars can make roads safer, free commuters from the drudgery of driving, reduce congestion and provide transport to people who can’t drive themselves, such as the blind, disabled, elderly and intoxicated, Brin said.

Let’s just hope the driverless cars aren’t guided by the new iOS 6 version of Apple’s maps.

24
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaign & Elections for September 24, 2012

27586 is described as a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, which is a relatively rare breed, but I’m more inclined to think this puppy is a mix of something like a Golden Retriever or lab with some kind of low rider like a basset. Whatever her heritage, she’s a beautiful puppy, friendly and playful, and will be available for adoption tomorrow, September 25, 2012, from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

27581 is a pocket puppy, a female Chihuahua, who also is described as friendly and playful and who will be available for adoption beginning tomorrow, September 25, 2012, from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

128036 is a male Golden Retriever who has landed in the lockup in Augusta and is available for adoption there. He’d be a great candidate for one of the Golden Retriever Rescues in Atlanta, and if someone wants to transport him, email me and I’ll put you in touch with the great folks of Adopt A Golden Atlanta.

Finally today, we have 125540, nicknamed Johnny, a yellow lab male who’s available for adoption from Augusta Animal Shelter. From the collar and the fact that he has a name, I’d guess he’s an owner turn-in, which typically means no mandatory hold time at the shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Republican Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton has written an Op-Ed arguing that the cost of solar panels have come down enough that it may now be considered on its own merits, without government mandates or subsidies.

The bad name solar energy has in Republican and conservative circles is based on the way it’s been over-hyped and oversold by the left and, in some cases, by those with a financial interest in the technology.

In Republican politics, solar energy is synonymous with failed big government policies, in part because of money schemes like Solyndra and taxpayer-subsidized automobiles.

I believe that solar technology is not inherently liberal; it’s the way in which it is implemented that marks solar programs as liberal or conservative.

With the cost of solar installations falling dramatically, some say as much as 75%, we can now discuss deploying solar power without the subsidies, waste, and cronyism that seems to pervade government solar initiatives. The only way we can responsibly implement more solar power is to require that it does not increase rates, and that solar programs include competitive mechanisms to ensure the lowest cost.

As we have seen with the repeal of the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, which the members of the Public Service Commission supported, and Governor Deal signed into law, lower energy costs not only benefit families, but can help Georgia attract more new jobs.

Speaking of government incentives for energy technology, Hall County’s ZF Wind Power is learning what happens when you run out of government money.

“The timeline to install new turbines is about six months and so … you can do the math,” said Elizabeth Umberson, president of 1925 New Harvest Drive, off Calvary Church Road.

The approaching deadline has had a “chilling” effect on orders, causing them to drop dramatically.

“We were supposed to be at full production levels, with a staff of 250, and we’re at 160 today,” Umberson said. “And we’ve capped that.”

The expiring tax credit gives wind manufacturers 2.2 cents for every kilowatt hour produced, said Jennette Gayer of Atlanta-based Environment Georgia.

“It assumes that wind (energy) is going to be a little bit more expensive, so to help encourage manufacturers to build turbines and feed into the (electricity) grid, it gives a small incentive per kilowatt hour to do so,” she said.

So there we have the perfect contrast: one approach to energy production that relies on competition and one that relies on government mandate and other peoples’ money.

Speaking of this year’s repeal of the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, Gwinnett County is looking at ways to make up for the revenue it “lost” in the repeal.

County officials will discuss next week implementing a new tax to replace funds taken away by a state-mandated exemption.

The law, adopted by the General Assembly earlier this year in an attempt to create a more business-friendly environment in Georgia and draw jobs, would give manufacturers a break on state and local sales taxes on energy resources, including electricity, natural gas, oil and other types of fuel. A phase out of the taxes will begin next year and be complete in 2016.

But to make sure that local governments didn’t suffer from a loss of revenue, legislators agreed to allow counties and cities to impose an excise tax on energy equal to the amount of money lost in local sales taxes, according to information from the Association County Commissioners of Georgia. The association said the excise tax can be used for any purpose, unlike sales taxes, which must be used for capital projects.

Today’s theme is voter registration. You can check your voter registration status online with the Secretary of State’s website to confirm that your information is correct. You may also download and print a voter registration form or absentee ballot application to fill out and mail.

The Savannah NAACP is putting the drive in voter registration drive, offering prospective voters a ride to the elections office to register to vote. According to WTOC’s story,

The deadline to register for the upcoming election is Oct. 9. The Savannah branch of the NAACP is offering rides to the Chatham County Voter Registration Office to obtain authorized identification. The rides and the IDs are free. No documents are needed to acquire an ID. Call the Savannah branch of the NAACP at 912.233.4161 for more information.

I don’t believe that last part is correct about not needing any documents to get a voter ID is correct, as the website for Secretary of State Brian Kemp says:

To Receive a voter identification card, the voter must provide:

A photo identity document or approved non-photo identity document that includes full legal name and date of birth

Documentation showing the voter’s date of birth

Evidence that the applicant is a registered voter

Documentation showing the applicant’s name and residential address

The Gwinnett County Republican Party had a voter registration and propaganda information booth at the County Fair last night, and reported that business was brisk all through the weekend. The fair continues this week at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, where you can get your fill of corn dogs, fried oreos, and fried twinkies, before picking up your Romney-Ryan yardsign for a small donation. I didn’t take that photo above, but I did take this one:

Speaking of Gwinnett Republicans, they will be holding a barbecue on Sunday, October 13th at Bethesda Park in Lawrenceville from 11 AM to 2 PM featuring Hal’s Barbecue. Click here for advanced tickets online here. Advance tickets are $12 per person, or $20 per couple. Tickets at the door are $15 per person, or $10 for college students with valid ID. Children under 6 are free. Advance tickets must be paid online in order to receive the discount.

Alice O’Lenick has been named to the Gwinnett County Board of Elections as a Republican nominee for the Board.

Alice O’Lenick will replace Keith Shewbert, who resigned to run as a candidate for the Norcross City Council. [Gwinnett GOP Chairman Bruce] LeVell said he plans to re-appoint longtime member Joan Zellner upon the expiration of her term at the end of the year.

Both major parties have two seats on the elections board, with a fifth independent member chosen by commissioners.

O’Lenick, a Dacula resident, has worked as a substitute teacher as well as has many years experience on the financial side of Gwinnett-based companies. Zellner has served on the elections board for nearly 20 years and was co-founder of the Greater Gwinnett Republican Women’s club.

Colquitt County Democrats held a voter registration drive featuring some of their candidates this weekend.

While the presidential race is always the biggest draw on a ballot, local voters will decide races for Colquitt County sheriff and county commission District 2. They also will cast ballots in races for District 171 state representative, for state Public Service Commission and in a referendum on granting the state more power in establishing charter schools.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are holding a nationwide HBCU Challenge to increase voter registration among students.

Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia and a civil rights icon, said he and some other caucus members will host voter registration and education projects in their districts Tuesday to “dramatize the issue once again.”

“It’s not just a Southern thing,” he said, noting that Pennsylvania is among states with new voting requirements. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh, it happened in Alabama. It happened in Mississippi, in Georgia, in North Carolina in South Carolina.’ But what is going on in Pennsylvania is a shame and a disgrace and an affront to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to the democratic process.”

Earlier this week, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court sent the fight over the state’s new voter ID law back to a lower court.

A group I’ve never heard of called The Advancement Project has released a report saying that the requirement for voter ID and other barriers to illegal voting may prevent up to ten million eligible Hispanic voters from exercising their right to vote.

In an analysis based on government data, civil rights group The Advancement Project identified legal barriers that could deter voter registration and participation among eligible Hispanics. In some of those states, the group’s researchers said, the number of voter-eligible Latino citizens potentially blocked by those barriers exceeds the margin of victory in the 2008 election.

“Like African Americans, Latinos have experienced decreased access and correspondingly lower levels of voter registration and participation than non-Hispanic whites,” said the report, which was being released Monday.

According to census data, there were more than 21 million Hispanics of voting age in 2010. They comprised roughly 10 percent of all eligible voters and 8 percent of registered voters in the U.S.

Among eligible Hispanics in 2010, 6.3 million said they were not registered to vote, and 10.8 million — about half of those of voting age — said they did not vote, the report said.

By comparison, the report said, there were 172.4 million non-Hispanic white citizens eligible to vote in 2010, with nearly 18 percent unregistered and 38 percent who said they did not vote.

There are three significant barriers to Hispanic voter participation, researchers said: citizenship-based voter purges, proof of citizenship requirements and photo identification laws.

A report by the Secretary of State’s office indicates that Northwest Georgia (also called “Extreme Northwest Georgia” by some denizens) has lost more than 10,000 registered voters since the 2008 election, and the state voter rolls have grown by only 6,517 people.

A total of 226,560 voters were registered in Floyd, Bartow, Chattooga, Polk, Gordon, Walker, Catoosa and Dade counties as of Sept. 1, according to Georgia secretary of state records. That’s 10,209 fewer than the 236,769 who registered for the 2008 election.

Georgia has 5,205,488 people on its rolls, compared to 5,198,971 registered, eligible voters four years ago.

Anyone who voted in the July 31 primary is good to go, but Floyd County Elections Supervisor Evon Billups said would-be voters who didn’t cast a ballot in the 2008 or 2010 elections should check their status.

“And if you are registered but you’ve changed your address, you have to update that in order to get the correct ballot,” she said. A name-change also must be registered, since a picture ID is required to vote.

The AJC reports that more than 36,000 newly registered voters have been added to the rolls betwen August 1st and September 1st of this year.

County election officials said interest is high since both political parties held their nominating conventions around Labor Day, with many predicting a registration surge into next month.

Georgians have until Oct. 9 to register to vote in the general election, although the first ballots went out Friday to voters casting absentee ballots by mail. Many groups, partisan and nonpartisan, will press to get people’s attention over the next two weeks.

“We win if Republicans and independents get out to vote. We lose if we stay home,” Georgia GOP chairwoman Sue Everhart said. “They say bumper stickers are worth 10 votes. My goal is to put a million bumper stickers on cars in Georgia.”

Secretary of State Brian Kemp, like his peers nationwide, has declared September National Voter Registration Month to encourage participation and increase awareness of state requirements and deadlines for voting.

And although it will come too late for November, Kemp plans next year to enable online voter registration.

According to the National Association of Secretaries of State, despite record-breaking registration and voter turnout in many states for the 2008 presidential election, six million potential voters did not cast a ballot because they missed a registration deadline or did not know how to register.

In an OpEd published in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Chris Johnson makes the case for trimming the voter rolls of not just people who lack the legal right, but those too stupid or otherwise impaired to vote.

• If you have watched more than five minutes of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” then you aren’t allowed to vote.

• If you rail against “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” but have seen most of the shows, you’re a hypocrite, which means you aren’t allowed to vote but are surely qualified to run for office.

• If you have ever been featured in an episode of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” you’re not allowed to vote … or procreate.

• If more than half your backside is showing outside the top of your pants, then you’re not allowed to vote – not that it has anything to do with the political process, but I don’t want to stand behind you in line.

• If you know the name of any droids other than R2D2 and C3PO in the “Star Wars” movie franchise, you aren’t allowed to vote but are allowed to work on my computer.

Carroll County will add a second early voting location for the November election.

Voters will have three weeks to cast early ballots in the election, with extended hours during the final week.

In addition to the Carrollton site at the elections office on College Street for the entire three-week period, advance voting will also be held during the final week at the Powell Park Arts Center in Villa Rica.

“We added the Villa Rica advance voting site to help voters in the northern part of the county,” said county Elections Supervisor Becky Deese.

Advance voting begins Monday, Oct. 15. During the first two weeks, voting will be held only at the Carroll County Elections Office in Carrollton, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each weekday. The Saturday voting day will be Oct. 27 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Carrollton office only.

During the final week of advance voting, Oct. 29 through Nov. 2, advance voting will be held at both the Carrollton and the Villa Rica sites, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Powell Park Arts Center is at 424 Leslie Drive in Villa Rica.

Deese said the state now uses the term “advance voting” for all early voting instead of the previously used “early voting” designation.

Eligible Carroll County voters will also have an opportunity to vote in the Special Election to fill former Senator Bill Hamrick’s seat. With Carroll County voters representing aroung 55% of votes cast in the last two elections for Hamrick’s seat, the additional early voting site may help a Carroll County candidate force Republican Bill Hembree into a runoff.

Governor Nathan Deal has appointed State Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville) as one of his Floor Leaders, replacing State Rep. Doug Collins, who will be elected to Congress in November.

Robert Williams, the Editor of the Blackshear Times likens Charter School proponents’ cry of school choice to Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake.”

Despite enacting extreme budget cuts forcing average public school class sizes to grow by substantial numbers, despite underfunding the state’s obligation for “adequate” public education, the typical response by Georgia’s top politicians to our state’s education problems has been “Let them have choice!” Political leaders, including Gov. Nathan Deal, want to divert dwindling resources from neighborhood public schools to help corporate interests privatize education in our state.

The Gold Dome crowd wants Georgia voters to believe charter schools, operated by for-profit companies, will be the magic bullet for improving education. That, despite numerous studies showing charter schools perform no better than other schools in improving educational achievement.

Like most issues embraced in our state Capitol, it’s all about money. To be specific, it’s about one of the Capitol  crowd’s favorite pastimes, opening taxpayers’ wallets to private business interests.

Even if we had the money to afford to set up charter schools across our state, that leaves one important unanswered question: What happens to those kids in our community who don’t get into a charter school and are left in the even more woefully underfunded older public schools?

Gov. Deal and his pals have their answer: Send them to the cafeteria and let them eat cake.

The congressional office of Rep. Tom Graves (R-Upper Left Hand Corner) was burglarized last week but the Congressman’s hair remained perfect.

The items taken from Graves’ office were two laptop computers. Reports state someone kicked in the door to the office to get inside. Cooke said there’s no evidence the thieves were solely targeting the congressman.

“U.S. Capitol Police, along with local authorities, are investigating the incident,” Graves spokeswoman Jennifer Hazelton said in a statement.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) has endorsed the reeleciton of Democrat John Barrow to Congress from the Twelfth District.

Barrow’s opponent, Republican Lee Anderson will have some high-profile help, as House Speaker John Boehner will visit the district to boost Anderson’s campaign.

Anderson made the announcement at Saturday’s GOP breakfast at Fatz Cafe in Evans.

“Oct. 15th, we will have the speaker here,” Anderson said.

“Speaker Boe­hner will be here in Columbia County, helping me, helping us take over District 12. We’re excited about it.”

In remarks to a group of about 30 people, Anderson continued to question why his Democratic opponent will not publicly declare that he is voting for President Obama in November.

“My opponent has not yet to say that he is going to vote for Obama,” Anderson said. “I’m here to tell you, I’m going to vote for Mitt Romney.”

Democrat Lesli Messinger has no chance at all of unseating Republican Congressman Jack Kingston.

The GOP vote in the new 1st, according to figures from the legislature, averaged 58 percent in 2010 statewide contests.

Just two Democrats, gubernatorial nominee Gov. Roy Barnes and attorney general nominee Ken Hodges, broke 40 percent.

Justifiably, we hear a lot about how new boundaries work against incumbent Democrat John Barrow in the neighboring 12th District.

Indeed, statewide Republican candidates also averaged 58 percent there in 2010.

So Barrow, who carried the old district with 56 percent of the vote in 2010, is correctly viewed as vulnerable.

So picture the plight of a novice Democratic candidate running on turf with similar 2010 election results. And against a veteran GOP incumbent who’d banked $1.24 million as of mid year.

At least Barrow has the good political sense to distance himself from President Barack Obama, a political albatross in Georgia. In contrast, Messinger boldly supports him. Can you say kamikaze run?

Also having zero chance of being elected are the two people running against Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey in the new Eleventh District.

Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisholm will open his campaign office tonight at 6:30 PM.

Jasper County School Board member Pamela Williams took the local Democratic Party to task for attempting to control the way elected officials vote once in office.

Williams has represented District 8, which includes Hardeeville, for nearly four years. In August, after a correction, the county election commission said Williams actually lives in District 9, the Levy precinct.

She said she approached County Council because she was asked to attend a meeting of the Democratic Party of Jasper County in the spring by Alex Pinckney, president of the Democratic Club. She said after preliminary introductions, Democratic Party chairman Arthur Murphy and Pinckney put her candidacy in no uncertain terms.

“They stated that they determined who would be elected and run for office,” Williams said. “They further stated that the reason they wanted us [Williams attended with another board member] to attend was because they wanted us to vote with the other members of the school board, even if we disagreed behind closed doors.”

“I informed them that I was highly insulted, for them to even suggest this,” said Williams, who is the wife of a county magistrate judge.

Williams said she questions the Democratic Party’s motives with the school board and the correction of her district, suggesting that the correction seems to be a way for the Democratic Party and the school board to get rid of candidates.

Murphy denied that anyone in the party told Williams how to vote as a school board member.

Cherokee County voters can attend two informational forums about the Homestead Option Sales Tax on the November 6th Ballot.

The first educational forum will begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday [September 26th] at the Northside Hospital-Cherokee Conference Center.

Another forum is slated for 6 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Chambers at City Center in Woodstock. Both forums are sponsored by Cherokee Bank and the Cherokee Tribune.

“The HOST Referendum is difficult to understand for the average voter. There is no better experience than to hear an informative presentation and have an opportunity to ask questions,” said Dennis Burnette, Cherokee Bank president.

It’s actually not hard to understand. We have the HOST in DeKalb County. The voters will have an opportunity to levy an additional penny sales tax, the proceeds of which will be used to offset part of the property tax bill for county operations. It works very well in DeKalb, limiting both our property tax bills, and generally speaking, the rate of growth of county government.

Cherokee’s HOST referendum has two questions on the ballot:

The HOST is expected to generate about $30 million per year, of which 20 percent can go for capital expenditures, according to the law structuring the tax; however, the commission plans to approve a resolution that would dedicate the entire amount of the revenue toward a property tax rollback.

“The HOST’s primary objective is to eliminate property tax, period,” said Post 4 County Commissioner Jason Nelms. “We need to give that information to people.”

There are two questions regarding the matter on the ballot: One asks if the HOST should be imposed and the other asks if up to 100 percent of the proceeds should go straight to reducing property taxes.

Ends & Pieces

Bridget Mary McCormack teaches at the University of Michigan Law School and is running for her state’s Supreme Court. She also has a web video that gathered most of the liberals cast of The West Wing to discuss the issue of voters choosing a party’s straight ticket and neglecting to vote for nonpartisan judicial offices. Pretty cool for $5000, assuming she doesn’t have to disclose the in-kind contributions of the actors at their day rate.

27
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 27, 2012

Pen 231 at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter holds this cute Lab mix, who has been misclassified as a “Pibble.” She’s accurately described as playful and friendly.

Tomorrow, a fundraiser will be held for the Society of Humane Friends, who run the spay/neuter clinic at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter and support the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Operation Second Chance Jail Dogs ProgramThe event is Saturday, July 28th from 10 AM to 3 PM at Gwinnett County Animal Control, located at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville, and will feature a raffle, bouncy house for kids, hot dogs, hamburgers, and soft drinks. Saturday is also the last day for discounted adoptions at the Gwinnett Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Owners of convenience stores tied to illegal gambling have contributed thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Muscogee County District Attorney Julia Slater, Muscogee County Sheriff John T. Darr, Marshal Greg Countryman and Municipal Court Judge Steven D. Smith among other candidates.

The contributions have raised questions as employees and relatives of campaign supporters — and at least one contributor himself — have been ensnared in a broadening Columbus police crackdown on illegal cash payouts from electronic gaming machines.

Businesses raided for alleged gambling since 2008 have given at least $28,000 to local candidates over the past four years, including nearly $10,000 to Slater and about $6,000 to Darr, according to an analysis by the Ledger-Enquirer.

The officeholders said they had not considered returning any contributions after the gambling raids, noting the defendants haven’t been convicted. They insisted they have never given or been asked for preferential treatment in exchange for the contributions.

Atlanta Unfiltered writes that Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers is accused of working on mailings for casinos and phone-handicapping services after he was elected to the General Assembly.

Chris McClurg, soon to be unsuccessful candidate for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge has been named as the biggest offender for political campaign signs in the rights-of-way.

Gwinnett code enforcement officers said the “biggest offender award” goes to Chris McClurg who is running for superior court judge.

Police said of the 150 illegal signs they picked up, 90 belonged to McClurg.

McClurg also has a voting record that includes 2004 Democratic Primary and Primary Runoff elections, and the 2008 Democratic Presidential Preference Primary.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp ruled that Augusta Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders is eligible to run for Superior Court.

A formal challenge to Saunders’ candidacy was filed in May by Augusta attorney Jack Long. Long claimed that Saunders should not be allowed to challenge Chief Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet for his seat in the Augusta Circuit because state law bars anyone who has defaulted on tax obligations from holding office.

Kemp, who has the final say in such election challenges, decided to adopt Judge Michael M. Malihi’s July 16 ruling, which said although Saunders owes federal taxes, his plan to pay the IRS under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy settlement meets the standard for a payment plan required by state law.

SOS Kemp also announced that his agency’s website will feature a new elections return tool for the primary elections.

“Our Agency’s new ENR system is a great resource for Georgia voters,” said Kemp.  “Information will be distributed efficiently, be interactive, and be able to be broken down to the precinct level.”

Would-be state Senate candidate Garry Guan has dropped out of the race after his residency challenge. Senator Curt Thompson is now unopposed.

Kemp rejected residency challenges against Republican Carla Roberts in HD 81 and Brooke Siskin in HD 95, in both cases adopting the recommendations of the Administrative Law Judge who took evidence.

Ashley Fielding of the Gainesville Times writes about the Republican Primary in the Ninth Congressional District.

One calls herself a “firebrand.” Another repeats that he’s the only “consistent conservative.” And the third rarely sits down without mentioning the U.S. Constitution.

A seven-month campaign for the Republican nomination to run for the newest U.S. House seat in Georgia, which once drew five Republicans from three counties, culminates Tuesday with just three candidates on the Republican ballot.

Those left are a former state representative from Hall County, a retired principal from White County and a former conservative radio talk show host, also from Hall.

If neither Doug Collins, Roger Fitzpatrick nor Martha Zoller is able to garner more than 50 percent of the votes cast, the two with the most support will face off in an Aug. 21 runoff.

The winner of the election will face Democrat Jody Cooley of Gainesville in November’s general election to represent all or parts of 20 counties in Northeast Georgia in Congress.

Former Governor Zell Miller has endorsed the reelection of state Senator Cecil Staton, according to a website owned by Cecil Staton

Senator Miller said, “Shirley and I have known Catherine and Cecil Staton for many years. I don’t do this frequently, but I feel so strongly about this race that I wanted to let you know that I’m supporting Cecil Staton for re-­‐election. I know a conservative champion when I see one.

Don’t let anyone fool you. Senator Staton is pro-­‐life, pro-­‐family, and pro-­‐business. He is a tax-­‐cutter, a budget-­‐balancer, and a job-­‐creator. We need him to keep fighting for our conservative values under the gold dome. I encourage everyone in the six counties of the 18th district to join me in supporting your Senator-­‐-­‐Cecil Staton.

An ethics campaign finance complaint has been filed against Fulton Magistrate Judge Melynee Leftridge over campaign expenditures. According to the filer of the complain,

“The most troubling of these allegations is an apparent elaborate scheme to funnel campaign contributions to a company responsible for maintaining a website www.pirouettesexy.com … the Pirouette Dance Company, whose name was changed to Pirouette Company with the Secretary of State in February 2012, currently maintains a website featuring pictures of scantly clad women and a current schedule of dates and fees,” [complainant Charlie] Statdlander said in a statement.

Other clients of Pirouette include DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, Democratic State Rep. Pat Gardner, State House candidate Ronnie Mabra, Gail Davenport, DeKalb County State Court Judge Dax Lopez, and Citizens for Transportation Mobility. Sound like a legitimate political consulting practice to me, but that does give me some ideas for my website.

Chuck Eaton, running for reelection to the Public Service Commission, is supported by Charlie Harper, editor of Peach Pundit.

Much of the decisions that the PSC makes are handcuffed by Georgia law and an increasing appetite for  the General Assembly to regulate utilities via every more friendly regulations codified as state law.  Senate Bill 31 continues to resonate as an example, with the legislature, not the PSC, deciding to pre-fund Georgia Power’s return on investment for two new nuclear reactors at plant Vogtle.

One of Chuck Eaton’s strong points is that he is intellectually curious.  He is a person who is willing to admit he doesn’t have all of the answers, and solicits opinions regularly on topics that interest him.

He has a keen grasp on the various risks associated with coal as the EPA continues to push coal powered electric plants toward extinction.  He understands that while natural gas prices are at historic lows right now, the history of the fuel is one of price volatility which could lead to wide variances in power costs.  He understands that nuclear is cheap once the power plants are operational, but getting a plant built after 30 years since the last plant was built will present unique challenges.

Eaton prefers a balanced approach, with Georgia not putting all eggs in one basket.  He’s generally pragmatic about the needs of the state, and balances the needs of Georgians with the requirements that those the PSC regulates are entitled to earn a profit as defined in state law.

While not someone I always agree with, Eaton is someone who can explain and is willing to defend his positions based on fact and underlying law.  That’s a rarity in politics.

In short, I trust him.  That’s also rare.  He’s an incumbent that gets my vote.  That’s getting more rare.

Eaton is also supported by Governor Nathan Deal, Congressman Tom Graves, Attorney General Sam Olens, and numerous other Republicans.

T-SPLOST opponents outnumbered supporters at a debate over the sales tax hike last night at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said her displeasure with the proposal came last year when the toll lanes were activated along Interstate 85. She said her inquiries into the issue, which actually increased congestion, caused her to realize the problem with the bureaucracy.

And, as far as the project list is concerned, she added that a proposal to convert Gravel Springs Road to an interchange angered her Buford constituents.

While debates in the Legislature lingered for years before the current Transportation Investment Act was adopted, Unterman said leaders would be anxious to take on the issue again in January if voters say no to the proposal.

“That’s the risk,” she said of politics intervening in the Legislature, “but I still say that risk is better than dumping billions of dollars into a system that is not working.”

Also in Gwinnett, T-SPLOST opponents are questioning whether county funds are being used to support the T-SPLOST.

Partnership Gwinnett, funded by businesses and government agencies, has won national acclaim for efforts to attract jobs to metro Atlanta. But on Thursday citizens groups questioned whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.

They also were skeptical of claims the Chamber of Commerce hasn’t used public money to support the transportation sales tax measure on Tuesday’s ballot.

Some Hispanic leaders joined Mayor Kasim Reed in supporting the T-SPLOST; a group called “Georgia Hispanic Republicans” are unanimously opposed to T-SPLOST. Make of it what you will.

The American Communist Lawyers Civil Liberties Union seeks to intervene in a lawsuit over Sumter County Board of Education district lines.

The Georgia Ports Authority is seeking to intervene in the federal lawsuit challenging the dredging of the Savannah River to improve access to the Port of Savannah.

The Georgia Ports Authority wants to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging the $650 million deepening of the Savannah River shipping channel saying its contractual and economic interests are at risk.

The authority also asked a judge to block South Carolina’s Savannah River Maritime Commission from entering the suit, saying that would expand the action and simply bring in extraneous issues.

The authority wants the river shipping channel deepened to handle larger ships that will be routinely calling when the Panama Canal is deepened in 2014. It filed the motions on Wednesday and U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Thursday gave the other parties in the case until Aug. 6 to respond.

The lawsuit filed by environmental groups contends the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs a South Carolina pollution permit before the deepening work can begin. The suit alleges toxic cadmium from river silt will be dumped in a dredge spoils area on the South Carolina side of the river.

The suit was brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Savannah Riverkeeper, based in Augusta, Ga., as well as the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation.

Forsyth County Elections

Senate district 27 pits Republican Senator Jack Murphy against Forsyth County Tea Party  founder Steve Voshall.

House district 26 is a contest between formers: former State Rep. Tom Knox and former Florida Marlins pitcher Geoff Duncan.

Walker Bramblett, the incumbent Chief Magistrate Judge meets former Chief Magistrate Barbara Cole. In 2008, Cole stepped down as she did not meet then-new requirements for years as a member of the State bar, but she now has enough time as a lawyer to mount a comeback.

The race for County Coroner features a retired medical examiner, a funeral director and a nurse, seeking to succeed Lauren McDonald, who is running for Sheriff.

The Republican primary for County Commission District 2 will decide whether incumbent Brian Tam or one of his challengers, Dennis Brown and Scott Padis, take a seat on the Commission, as no Democrat is running.

County Commission District 4 will also be decided in the Republican primary between incumbent Patrick Bell, and challengers Tim Hubbard, Charles Meagher, Cindy J. Mills and Bill Mulrooney.

One of those candidates for District 4, Cindy Mills, had an ethics complaint filed against her because she failed to list her role as an officer in the Forsyth County Parks Foundation on her Personal Financial Disclosure. She amended her PFD that day.

Holly LaBerge, spokeswoman for the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, said the complaint will not be pursued until after the July 31 election.

“If it was filed within 30 days of an election, we can’t do anything with it until the election is over by law,” LaBerge said.

Click Here

State Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Forsyth) was appointed chair of the Jekyll Island State Park Oversight Committee, on which he currently serves as a member. Tough duty.

A former Forsyth County deputy who was terminated during his probationary period claims his firing was because he posted on Facebook that he supports Duane Piper, who is challenging Sheriff Ted Paxton in the Republican Primary.

Ends & Pieces

Rocky Creek Solar Farm in Upson County is the first facility of its type in Georgia, and is now producing up to 1 megawatt, enough to power 300 homes. Georgia Power purchases electricity produced at the facility, with an additional 18 megawatts under development.

Effingham County Sheriff’s Office took second place in its division in a national law enforcement highway safety challenge.

Rome-based Bubba will compete in dock diving at the Summer at the Rocks event in Stone Mountain this weekend. The event runs today through Sunday. Bubba is a four-year old chocolate Lab who enjoys food, licking himself, and belly rubs.

Model High School in Rome is holding it’s annual band camp. This is not a one time occurence, but annual.

3
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 3, 2012

“Jeremy” (left) is a 5-year old Black Lab who has been neutered, microchipped and fully vaccinated who is available for adoption today from Walton County Animal Services. A Georgia licensed rescue that pulls him from the shelter is eligible for $310 in donations that have been pledged.

“Dora” (right) is about 5 weeks old and weighs six pounds. She’s an Australian Shepherd mix with a docked tail and full vaccines. She’s also available for adoption from Walton County.

In Macon, two puppies were rescued from being tied outside without shelter, food, or clean water in 100+ degree temperatures.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal is leading a trade mission to Canada through July 10th.

The mission will include Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal, Chris Cummiskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and Steve Brereton, Consul General of Canada in Atlanta.

Deal will meet with prospective businesses and with companies that have existing Georgia operations, including Bombardier and CAE. In Toronto he will address a business investment luncheon hosted by PNC Bank and the Canadian-American Business Council. Later that day Deal will throw out the first pitch of the Toronto Blue Jays v. Kansas City Royals baseball game at Rogers Centre.

The governor and delegation will also attend, as honored guests, celebrations of the U.S. Independence Day hosted by the U.S. consulates in Montreal and Toronto. Georgia-grown products will be showcased during the Independence Day celebration in Montreal.

Congratulations to Canadia. It’s not every day that a minor US state gets an official visit from Georgia’s Governor.

Congratulations to Fayette County’s Sheila Studdard, who was reappointed by Gov. Deal to the Board of Commissioners of the Superior Court Clerks Retirement Fund of Georgia. Condolences to Gwinnett County Chair Charlotte Nash, Henry County Chair B.J. Mathis, and Douglas County Chair Tom Worthan, whom Deal appointed to the GRTA Board.

Fulton County became the state’s largest charter school system on July 1st, which will allow the system to apply for waivers to some state regulations.

The State Board of Education has set a hearing on July 18 to review the Board’s recommendation that the Governor remove members of the Sumter County Board of Education following the loss of its accreditation from SACS.

Gwinnett County’s would-me casino magnate Dan O’Leary is predicting that the Republican ballot question on whether to allow casino gambling will fail.

O’Leary said the question on the GOP ballot is flawed. It reads: “Should Georgia have casino gambling with funds going to education?” The Democratic ballot does not contain the question.

“To truly gauge public sentiment on the issue of gaming, the real question is: Are voters in favor of the Georgia Lottery expanding with (video lottery terminals) games in a single controlled environment to save the HOPE scholarship? This question gets to the heart of the issue. It’s not about casinos; it’s about saving HOPE,” O’Leary said in a statement, referring to the HOPE Scholarship, where lottery funds are used to fund college scholarships and Pre-K programs.

While video lottery terminals look like video slot machines, O’Leary said they are more similar to scratch-off lottery tickets and funds would go solely to the Georgia Lottery.

O’Leary said he did not lobby for the question to be on ballots.

“Given that this ballot question does not accurately portray our project, we fully anticipate that the voters will vote against it,” O’Leary said.

I disagree that the casino gambling question is doomed. We wrote yesterday that casino gambling scored a narrow victory in Hall County GOP straw poll, and have seen other signs that Republicans may not disapprove overwhelmingly of casino gambling. Of course, the Personhood Amendment may bring out culturally-conservative Pro-Life voters, who appear to strongly oppose casino gambling. Over-under for approval of casino gambling is set at 48.

House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams spoke with Dennis O’Hayer and responded to Majority Leader Ed Lindsey’s statement on MARTA’s leadership and the 50-50 funding split, saying that she’s open to discussing the issues, but that Lindsey’s proposal is unworkable.

The Transportation Leadership Coalition is considering a legal challenge to the preamble language for the T-SPLOST on the July 31st ballot [pdf].

On behalf of TLC, Atlanta attorney Pitts Carr has taken the necessary initial action to protect the Georgia state ballot from political interference.

Today’s formal inquiry from attorney Carr directs Secretary of State Brian Kemp to cite the legal authority for adding the language “Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight.”

Carr’s letter in part reads:

“Secretary of State Kemp concluded that the preamble “is referenced in the original legislation”.  Nowhere does that language appear in O.C.G.A. 48-8-240 et seq.”

Jack Staver, TLC chairman [said,] “The chaotic and contradictory statements made by Kemp and his office are characteristic of someone getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar, or in this case in the taxpayers’ pocket. I understand why Kemp is running around like a chicken with his head cut off.  There is a real possibility that the secretary of state could be held personally liable for the cost of reprinting the ballot.”

Ten days ago TLC issued a public call for Governor Nathan Deal to intervene and protect the integrity of the ballot.  Governor Deal, one of the biggest supporters of the Referendum 1 tax increase, has not responded to these requests.

Yesterday, Republican Public Service Commissioner Stan Wise released a YouTube video raising the issue of his opponent’s truthiness, ethics, and adherence to Republican principles.

Davidson, running on an ethics platform, is taken to task for claiming education degrees she has not earned, lobbying for green energy subsidies at the expense of higher electricity rates, endorsing a Democrat after she lost the PSC Republican Primary in 2008 (despite signing the GOP Loyalty Oath), and a series of ethics lapses….

On July 31, voters in Bibb County will vote on whether to consolidate Bibb County and the City of Macon. State Rep. Allen Peake supports consolidation and writes,

Folks, the bottom line on this consolidation vote is this: If you are happy with where you are now, and content with our county losing population and jobs, then vote NO.

But if you believe we can have a brighter future; if you believe that we can turn this sinking ship around, and if you want economic opportunities for your family, your children, and your grandchildren, then this is your chance. Vote YES on July 31! We have so many positives in our community, and if we can just get past the gridlock and stagnation that has been our pattern for the last 40 years, there are no limits to how prosperous we can be.

So, please join me by voting YES, and let’s start moving the community we love in the right direction.

Incumbent Republican State Representative Jimmy Pruett faces challenger John Clements in the Primary for District 149.

Click Here

Incumbent Javors Lucas has served 31 years on the Macon Water Authority Board and faces challenger Regina Lucas in the Democratic Primary. Surprisingly, Lucas’s tenure is the second-longest on the Board to Chairman Frank Amerson.

Houston County will elect two school board members.

Stockbridge Mayor Lee Stuart admits to reading the emails of five city employees:

Stuart said he suspected his own city e-mail account was being monitored, as well, but he did not say by whom.

“I wanted to see if they [those he wanted to monitor] are the ones monitoring my e-mails,” said Stuart. “I had complaints from city employees that their e-mails are being monitored. In any e-mails that I sent to city employees, they would get questioned by Gibson [when he was employed earlier this year] about e-mails I would send them.”

Stuart, as Stockbridge’s chief executive officer, has the right to view e-mail accounts for employees in the city. However, Milliron said Stuart, in May, made a request to monitor employee e-mails, without the knowledge of employees.

“Quite frankly, unless there is an exemption in the state’s public access laws, we presume that all of our e-mails are open to inspection by the public,” said Milliron. “But I would not expect the mayor, or any other elected official, to have secret access to my, or any other employee’s e-mails, unless there was a city policy that informed employees that they had no expectation of privacy with respect to their e-mail communications. There is no such policy in place.

“The mayor always makes broad, sweeping statements that he has received complaints,” Milliron continued. “Everyone, with respect to the mayor, is always nameless and faceless. His request to secretly monitor employee e-mails does nothing but undermine the working relationship that we have here at City Hall.”

The ongoing feud in Snellville took a turn stayed nasty as Democrat Mayor Kellie Kautz criticized the council’s action:

A 4-2 vote pushed through an amended budget proposed by Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts, one that does not include a $426,022 budget line for road projects through the Livable Centers Initiative. The LCI project… was the crux of debate among the mayor and council and the primary difference between Witts’ $9.61 million budget and that proposed by Kautz.

Kautz called the project’s non-inclusion, and the budget in general, “sloppy,” “a mess” and “unprofessional.”

Witts said it was not included in the budget because he didn’t believe it should be factored into tax calculations. He said it should be handled with money received following the service delivery dispute with the county.

“I don’t feel that’s something we should be taxing our people for,” Witts said. Councilmen Bobby Howard and Dave Emanuel voiced their support.

Jan Burke, the city’s controller, did not support Witts’ budget. She called the omission of the LCI project — as well as $16,900 for gazebo repairs at Briscoe Park — a “material misstatement.”

“Those are material expenses,” she said. “They have to be budgeted. We obviously are going forward with those projects.”

Because nothing screams “professional” like name-calling.

Events Calendar

The Lamar County Republian Debate Committee will host a debate among the three candidates for Third Congressional District, namely, Congressman Lynn Westmoreland and two other guys. The event begins at 7 PM tonight at Lamar County School’s Fine Arts Center, at 126 Burnette Road in Barnesville. Doors will open to the public at 6 p.m. For more information, contact Julia Heidbrink at 678-588-1619 or by email at [email protected]

The Towns County Republican Party will celebrate the Fourth of July on the Seventh of July with a barbecue and forum for Ninth Congressional District candidates at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds.

On July 10th, the Cobb County Civic Coalition will hold a forum for candidates for County Chair.

The Council for Quality Growth will host Congressman John Mica, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at lunch on July 13th for a Regional Transportation Referendum countdown.

Republican Women of Muscogee and Harris Counties will host a primary candidate dinner on July 17th featuring Q&A and opportunities for candidates to speak.

You can register today for Grilling with the Governor in Gainesville on July 21st.

On August 4th, the Eighth District Republican Party will host the annual Fish Fry in Perry at the Georgia National Fairgrounds.

Ends & Pieces

Atlanta Tim Hornsby qualified for the 2012 Olympics in sprint kayak. WABE has a story on Hornsby.

The Georgia Aquarium has applied for a permit to bring 18 Beluga whales to the United States, but they wouldn’t necessarily be housed in Atlanta.