Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for January 22, 2013

Gerald Jones Volkswagen-Audi in Augusta, Georgia has partnered with L.E.A.S.H. Rescue and will become a drop-off point for donations of dog food, toys and other materials, as well as holding adoption events. In honor of the partnership, today’s dogs are both from L.E.A.S.H. rescue.

LEASH_Caine

 

Caine, above, is one of five dogs who came in together and he will be available for adoption soon after he is neutered. His brother, Abel, (below),will also need a home soon, and they are available separately or together. For more information, visit L.E.A.S.H. on Facebook or email them. If you’re not in the Augusta area, you can donate online.

LEASH_Abel

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Georgia Right to Life will hold “Together for Life 2013” at the steps of the State Capitol today, beginning at 11:30 AM. Former State Rep. Doug McKillip will deliver the keynote address, and the group will walk silently as a memorial.

The Georgia General Assembly will hold Joint Budget Hearings on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in Room 341 of the State Capitol and convenes again on Monday, January 28th, 2013.

The agenda for the Joint Budget Hearings is available by clicking here.

Governor Deal is expected to address today’s joint budget hearing at 10:30 AM. Also addressing today’s hearing will be state fiscal economist Kenneth Heaghney, the Department of Education, the University System of Georgia, the Technical College System of Georgia, the Department of Early Care and Learning, the Student Finance Commission and the Secretary of State’s Office.

Wednesday’s budget hearing will include the Departments of Correction, Juvenile Justice, Transportation, Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Labor and Economic Development.

On Thursday, the joint committees will hear the Departments of Human Services, Community Health, Public Health, Revenue and the Office of Planning and Budget.

Former State Senator Chip Rogers will be paid $150,000 per year at his new job at Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Former state Sen. Chip Rogers will start his new job Tuesday earning a lofty $150,000 – making him the seventh executive at Georgia Public Broadcasting earning six-figures annually, despite a rather pedestrian title: Executive producer, community jobs program.

The position, like others at GPB, is paid solely through state taxpayers’ money. But it is more than Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle each make in their public jobs.

And it is more than what some of Rogers’ new colleagues made in the last fiscal year, including GBP’s vice president for radio and its chief information officer.

What are the odds of Rogers providing color commentary if horse racing is passed in the legislature?

The State Auditor reports that most Georgia tax breaks go to individual citizens rather than large companies.

Tax collections so far this fiscal year are coming in below the projected rate, prompting Deal to order all state agencies – except K-12 education – to trim 3 percent from their spending. At the same time, costs for Medicaid are more than $300 million over budget already this year, not counting a nearly $700 million hole that would be left in the budget if the hospital tax isn’t extended.

Legislative budget writers started requiring governors in recent years to submit a document called the Tax Expenditure Report that estimates how much each tax break leaves in the private economy and out of the government’s use.

“Although not direct government expenditures, tax expenditures represent an allocation of government resources in the form of taxes that could have been collected (and appropriated) if not for their preferential tax treatment,” State Auditor Greg Griffin wrote in his letter delivering the report.

The largest tax breaks is the so-called personal exemption from individual income taxes representing $1 billion. Exemptions for retirement income, $697 million, Social Security, $140 million, and credit for taxes paid to other states, $185 million, are also among the largest ways private Georgians keep from forking more over to the government.

Exemptions from the sales tax also benefit individuals, including $509 million on food, $423 million for prescriptions, $171 million on lottery tickets and $8 million on school lunches. The sales-tax holidays that temporarily exempt school supplies save another $41 million.

Some business tax breaks are due to expire this year. A break on seed, fertilizer and farm chemicals that ended Jan. 1 totaled $150 in the last fiscal year. The exemption of certain machinery used in the manufacturing of consumer items expired the same time and amounted to $175 million last year.

One due to expire in June is the sales tax exemption for airplane engine-repair parts worth $7 million last year. It’s being pushed by companies like Gulfstream Aerospace which argues jobs would be lost if airplane customers took their business to states that don’t charge the tax.

The City of Atlanta will ask the legislature for a number of changes to existing law in order to help it with budget issues.

The city of Atlanta’s legislative wish-list for the 2013 General Assembly includes changes in state law that would allow the city to increase taxes on alcohol, sell condemned and blighted property to private parties, designate sales tax revenue disbursements by tenths of a cent rather than a full penny, and charge the public school system for the cost of running school board elections.

One proposal — such as slicing penny sales taxes into smaller increments of one-tenth of a percent, which could go to different purposes — is similar to those pushed this year by Cobb County.

A sales tax levied in Atlanta at a tenth of a percentage point could generate about $11 million or $12 million in revenue per year.

Yolanda Adrean, who represents northwest Atlanta on the City Council, said the proposal would provide municipalities with much-needed flexibility.

“If a penny of tax could be split between more than one priority, it could allow the city to move on some very crucial needs,” Adrean said. “I’m not suggesting that we add a penny of sales tax. In a time where there’s a great deal of sensitivity to how much you’re taxed and where that money goes, this gets everyone focused. There are lots of pressing needs that are not getting funded.”

As for the similar fractional-tax measure for Cobb County,

State Rep. John Carson (R-Northeast Cobb) told Around Town on Thursday that he would introduce a bill, possibly as soon as this week, that would pave the way for such special local option sales taxes, also known as “fractional SPLOSTs.” The tax would be charged increments of a twentieth of 1 percent, if passed. At present the sales tax can only levied in increments of 1 percent, although receipts from that 1 percent are often divided among several jurisdictions.

In theory, they also would prevent situations in which a governing body, knowing that a full penny SPLOST would raise X amount of dollars, proceeds to inflate its SPLOST-project list in order to match the expected revenues.

The concept has the backing of Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee.

Carson’s bill would apply statewide and allow counties and cities to charge less than a full 1 percent sales tax. A similar bill is soon to be introduced in the state Senate, said Sen. Judson Hill (R-East Cobb).

Senator Lindsey Tippins (R-West Cobb) told Around Town the Cobb School District has approached him in the past about introducing legislation for partial-penny SPLOSTs.

If approved by the Legislature, voters would then have to approve a constitutional amendment before the tax could be levied on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis.

“I have told them I feel like you can accomplish the same thing by doing a SPLOST for a specified number of months based on what your true need is and make a promise to the voters that you won’t go back to them for five years for another tax,” Tippins said. “So if you need to collect 60 cents on the dollar, you could collect it for three years and promise not to go back for five.”

“Now obviously the action of that board would not be legally binding on a subsequent board, but whoever wanted to go back and change that would be facing political suicide, so in actuality you could bind the board so if anybody on the school board says ‘We want to do a partial penny,’ we can accomplish the same thing without a constitutional amendment.”

Separately, Senator Tippins told the MDJ that he voted for the Hospital Bed Tax because it was the “lesser of two evils.”

Tippins said the alternative to levying the tax is forgoing federal matching funds and paying for Medicaid services through the state budget.

“So you’d be taking another $700 million out of existing state funding, and that would come from other agencies,” Tippins said. “You’re going to be hitting education very, very strongly, and all the other good services that the state provides. The reality is that money would have to come from somewhere because the state in their agreement to access the federal stimulus money cannot change the delivery pattern for Medicaid until 2014, so we’re locked in under the same eligibility and also under the same payment program.”

Fulton County’s next budget may include furloughs for lawyers and less funding for libraries.

Fulton’s countywide property tax rate has declined over the last decade, and most residents won’t see an increase this year. Under the proposed budget, residents of unincorporated South Fulton would see a 19 percent property tax increase to pay for police, fire and other municipal services. That would cost the owner of a $200,000 an extra $100 a year.

Fulton County would trim spending in its general fund – which pays for countywide services like courts, libraries and elections – 2 percent this year under the proposed $569.4 million budget.

Among other things, proposed cuts would lead to reduced library hours and spending for various social service programs. At a public hearing earlier this month, more than 60 people – many of them senior citizens – urged commissioners to restore funding for various programs.

DeKalb County will likely raise property taxes, its favorite method of balancing its budget.

As a result of declining property tax revenue and the incorporation of the city of Brookhaven, commissioners will have to consider spending cuts or a potential property tax rate increase proposed by DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis. The 1.9 percent millage rate increase would cost almost $49 dollars more a year for owners of a $200,000 home.

In December, Ellis proposed a more than $562 million dollar budget. In addition to a potential millage rate increase, the budget calls for a three percent cost of living adjustment for DeKalb County’s lowest paid workers, 25 additional police officers and maintaining $30 million dollars in reserve funding. Commissioners will have until the end of February to adopt the budget.

After serving two four-year terms on the Judicial Qualifications Commission, Jack Winter, who also is a former Chairman of the Fulton County GOP, will rotate off the Board. Governor Nathan Deal named Richard Hyde, whose investigations have led to a number of JQC actions and judicial resignations, as Winter’s replacement.

The Fulton County Republican Party named Mary Norwood as its appointee to the Fulton Board of Elections.

The President of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, supports the resolution by Senator Barry Loudermilk expressing regret at the state’s history of slavery.

Georgia Carry is challenging local regulations on the carrying of guns via handwritten letters.

Handwritten letters, dated Jan. 18, from James Camp of Temple, a GeorgiaCarry.org founder and recent state Senate candidate, were hand-delivered to Carrollton Mayor Wayne Garner and Carroll County Commission Chairman Marty Smith.

In the letter to Garner, Camp challenges a city ordinance prohibiting firearms on the GreenBelt trail and another which says firearms cannot be carried by parade participants.

The letter to Smith challenges a county ordinance which says the commission chairman, in times of local disasters or emergencies, can suspend the sale, distribution, dispensing or transportation of firearms, alcoholic beverages, explosives and combustible products and can close businesses which sell them.

Sure enough, after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote about inconsistencies in the list of banned vanity tags, two lawyers are suing on First Amendment grounds after their client’s choices, which included GAYPWR, were rejected. Surely a Miata would convey  that message clearly enough.

Georgia Republican Convention Cycle 2013

Rachel Little has released a list of endorsements in her bid for Chair of the Gwinnett County Republican Party that includes Congressman Rep. Austin Scott, State Rep. Tom Kirby, the GOP chairs of Muscogee, Rockdale, Newton, Bibb and Barrow counties, and former Gwinnett GOP chair Chuck Efstration.

Joseph Brannan, who was recently elected Chairman of the Second District Georgia Republican Party, will run for election to a full term.

YMBFKM: Chip Rogers paid $150k per year at Georgia Public Broadcasting

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Former state Sen. Chip Rogers will start his new job Tuesday earning a lofty $150,000 – making him the seventh executive at Georgia Public Broadcasting earning six-figures annually, despite a rather pedestrian title: Executive producer, community jobs program.

The position, like others at GPB, is paid solely through state taxpayers’ money. But it is more than Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle each make in their public jobs.

And it is more than what some of Rogers’ new colleagues made in the last fiscal year, including GBP’s vice president for radio and its chief information officer.

“We’re rolling up our sleeves,” GPB Vice President Nancy Zintak said Friday of Rogers’ pending arrival. “He has spent the last five weeks really researching and digging in about the challenges we have in the state regarding education and job readiness in Georgia.”

Rogers, a former television and radio reporter, will spearhead the new effort’s development, and go on-air as a radio host. The program is expected to begin broadcasting in late spring on GPB’s 17-station radio network. The shows will also stream live on www.gpb.org.

“GPB is one of America’s most widely respected and honored public broadcasting organizations,” Rogers said Friday in a statement released through GPB. “The opportunity to play a role in developing quality programming that will benefit communities across Georgia is extremely satisfying on both a professional and personal basis. I look forward to helping move this great broadcasting organization to new heights.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for December 5, 2012

Vernon is a good-looking black lab who loves swimming and people, playing fetch, and gets along with other dogs. He is available for adoption from Dixie Dog Rescue in Vidalia, Georgia.

 

These three dogs are still available for adoption from the Murray County Animal Shelter in Chatsworth, Georgia and are due to be euthanized Friday morning in the pre-dawn hours unless a rescue commitment is made. Email [email protected] or call 770-441-0329 if you’re interested in helping one of these souls. Transportation is available.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

So, I was wrong in my prediction that Bill Hembree would win the Republican Primary Runoff in Senate District 30. Mike Dugan will move forward to face Librarian Libertarian James Camp in the January 8, 2013 election. Hembree carried Paulding County with 65% and his home county Douglas with more than 80%, but the two counties combined for only 37.7% of votes cast in the runoff. Dugan carried Carroll County, where he lives, by more than 3-to-1 and with Carroll accounting for 63.3% of the vote, it was enough to bring him in with a total margin of 750 votes.

“I’m humbled and proud,” Dugan said. “I’m not surprised that we won, but I am surprised with how well we did and I’m thankful for that. I’m going to take tomorrow off, with Christmas coming, and catch up on a bunch of ‘honey do’s,’ then I’m going to start getting ready for Jan. 8. Anybody who thinks this race is done is just kidding themselves.”

It was a disappointing loss for Hembree, who came within 2 percentage points of winning the race outright in the Nov. 6 voting. He had 48.4 percent of the vote then, while Dugan got only 24.3 percent to win a spot on the runoff ballot. But more than 70 percent of the voters turned out then, with the presidential race and several state and local contests on the ballot.

The take-away from this is that if you’re a candidate, avoid December runoffs like you would a land war in Asia. As I told the Times-Georgian, they’re unpredictable and custom-made for upsets.

Rehm cited numerous examples of candidates who trailed in general election voting only to win a runoff, including Mike Crane’s win over Duke Blackburn in the November 2011 Senate District 28 race.

Add to that Senator John Wilkinson’s win in November 2011 and Chuck Eaton’s win from behind in December 2006, and the pattern is that reversals can and do occur in late-year runoff elections.

Senator Chip Rogers resigned from the State Senate effective today. Governor Deal has ten days to call a special election to fill the vacancy, and the special election must be held at least thirty days later and no more than sixty days after the Governor calls for the election. This would allow a Special Election to fill Rogers’ seat on January 15, 2013, the day after the General Assembly convenes. Even with the possibility of a runoff election, the early date would allow a new Senator to participate in much of the 2013 Session.

Early speculation is that Brandon Beach will run, having won 12,000 votes against Rogers in the General Primary in July. Also mentioned is State Rep. Sean Jerguson, whose Cherokee County residence may be helpful in a district where Cherokee County contributed 81% of the 2012 GOP Primary.

If Jerguson runs for Senate, political consultant Brian Laurens might run for Jerguson’s seat. Scot Turner, who carried 42% of the GOP Primary against Jerguson would also be a likely candidate. The Cherokee County legislative delegation will meet with local officials tomorrow to discuss priorities for the 2013 Session, followed by a Town Hall meeting for Cherokee residents at 6:30 PM. I expect there will be some talk of the Senate race.

Dennis O’Hayer at WABE has a nearly 16 minute interview with Chip Rogers.

J. Max Davis will take office as the first Mayor of the City of Brookhaven, winning nearly 66% over Democrat Sandy Murray. Rebecca Chase Williams won the District One city council seat, with almost 66% of the vote.

Both incumbent members of the Clayton County Board of Education were defeated last night.

With 15 of the 16 precincts reported, District 2 challenger Mark Christmas appeared to have handily defeated incumbent Wanda Smith, while voters in District 7 appeared to have selected Judy Johnson over incumbent Trinia Garrett.

The two districts have a combined 30,000 registered voters. But fewer than 600 residents cast votes Tuesday. The school board race was Clayton’s only election Tuesday. The vote continues a movement of change that began this summer when the county ousted its sheriff and two longtime commissioners.

Democrat Frederick Ward won Putnam County Commission District 1 by an eight-vote margin.

Democrat Wayne Hall won a seat on the Jeff Davis County Commission.

In Augusta City Commission District 1, William Fennoy beat incumbent Matt Aitken, reversing the runoff election three years ago.

Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal will light the tree at the Georgia State Capitol today at 11 AM in the rotunda. Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black will introduce the Governor.

I’ll be well-behaved at the Capitol today, as the Georgia State Troopers there will be carrying assault rifles. (Actually, I suspect they won’t carry them routinely but will have them available.)

Governor Deal says that renewing the hospital bed tax or Medicaid assessment fee is vital to healthcare in Georgia.

“Without it, we’re going to be hard-pressed to maintain the quality of care and to provide the payments to the provider community that we’d like to see.”

Passed in 2010, the provider fee allows the state to collect 1.45 percent of net patient revenue from hospitals. It raises more than $200 million annually for the state Medicaid program, and helps draw down nearly $600 million more in matching funds from the federal government.

The fee is set to expire next year, unless lawmakers decide to renew it.

Deal says allowing the tax to expire would wreak havoc on the state budget.

“I support something that is going to provide for the filling of that gap in our  budget and the provider fee seems like the most logical way to do that.”

Deal says a unified front among hospitals will help avoid another ugly episode at the state Capitol.

“I certainly hope the hospital community – if they can come together on an agreement and recognize the importance of it – they’re the ones that are going to be making those payments. We would hope that would mitigate some of that conflict,” said Deal.

Regardless of the provider fee, the state Medicaid program is already financially challenged. It’s facing a deficit of more than $300 million heading into next year.

AllNews 106.7 is reporting that Fulton County may hire Republican lobbyists in order to have more effective communications with the General Assembly. Fulton County Chairman John Eaves says he thinks the Commission can be more effective by personally lobbying legislators. This is the same John Eaves whose radio ad said Republicans would turn back the clock on civil rights and evoked police dogs and water hoses. Good luck with that.

The Atlanta City Council has adopted a measure endorsing gay marriage by an 11-2 vote.

The Canton Tea Party has received a couple of nastygrams from the Georgia Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

Carolyn Cosby, chairwoman of the Canton Tea Party, confirmed Monday she has received an order from The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission regarding ethics charges made against the Canton Tea Party and the Citizens Review and Recommendations Committee, stemming from alleged actions taken during the recent campaign season.

Complaints 2012-0032 and 2012-0033 were filed by Post 3 Commissioner Karen Bosch in June. Cosby said Monday the correspondence listed both complaints and said “respond in 15 days or pay $12,000 in 30 days.” However, Cosby said she received notice of additional complaints filed by an apparently unidentified complainant.

Ethics commission spokesperson Holly LaBerge said Monday that, in general, if a case being investigated by Ethics is not credible, it would be dismissed.

“The issuance of a compliance or consent order means there is a violation of some sort that has occurred,” she said, noting that proceedings regarding the complaints are not open record until a final resolution is made.

“The consent order can be signed by all parties or can go to hearing if the person objects to it,” she added.

In the complaints regarding the two groups led by Cosby, Bosch charges the groups were raising money to mount campaigns to influence votes for and against candidates.

To the complaint regarding the citizens’ committee, Bosch attached a flier that has Cosby’s contact number at the bottom. The flyer promoted Post 2 candidate Channing Ruskell as a “Tea Party Favorite” and decries the actions of incumbent Post 2 Commissioner Jim Hubbard. To the complaint on the Canton Tea Party Patriots, Bosch attached documentation from Hubbard, who attended a meeting of the organization. He said Cosby, would only let “favorites” address the audience and asked those in attendance to consider donating to a “special fund for the ‘favorites’ candidates.”

Cosby said Tuesday the complaints charge her of opposing the Homestead Option Sales Tax Referendum at a tea party meeting held in October. She said she was personally opposed to the HOST.

Besse Cooper, the Georgian who was the oldest woman in the world, died yesterday.

Chip Rogers leaving Georgia Senate?

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

State Sen. Chip Rogers is expected to announce today he is stepping down from office, multiple state, legislative and agency officials confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The decision comes only weeks after Rogers decided not to seek re-election as Senate Majority Leader — one of the most powerful positions in the chamber. He said then that he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Rogers, who won reelection last month representing parts of Cherokee and north Fulton counties, has been one of the Georgia Legislature’s most visible leaders, a conservative Republican who at times veered unintentionally into the spotlight because of his views.

Rogers is expected to address his decision to leave the Senate later today. His office over the weekend said it won’t comment on rumors of his departure.

Casey Cagle a winner from Senate Leadership elections

From Sarah Mueller of the Gainesville Times:

A change of leadership among state Senate Republicans may mean more power for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and lead to more influence for a local senator in the upcoming 2013 session.

The Republican Senate caucus will meet Dec. 15 to decide what responsibilities Cagle will assume in addition to his official duties as president of the Senate.

Cagle had broad powers in 2006, but Senate leaders relieved him of many responsibilities in 2010. With those revolutionary leaders remaining in the Senate but out of the top positions, friends such as Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, may help the second-highest elected official in the state regain some power.

Charles S. Bullock, political science professor at the University of Georgia, said he thinks Cagle will get some of his power back but not all of it.

“He won’t be just a figurehead,” Bullock said. “But he won’t have the power of his first term or historically.”

The Republican Senate caucus met Nov. 15 to elect leadership positions for the next term, choosing Sen. David Shafer of Duluth as president pro tem and Sen. Ronnie Chance of Tyrone, the governor’s floor leader, as majority leader. Miller was elected caucus chairman.

Miller said he was grateful and encouraged that he was the choice of his fellow colleagues. The caucus chairman for each party helps determine what bills reach the floor and helps directs the caucus on the bills and issues they’ll take up.

“Primarily I will run the meetings and try to keep order and productivity,” he said.

Issues likely to come up next year include water issues, ethics, education, health care and the state budget, Miller said.

Political Consultant Brian Laurens lied

 

So childish baby-faced Political Consultant Brian Laurens has accused me of breaking the telecommunications laws and falsely using his Caller ID in making robocalls against Senator Chip Rogers. Brian Laurens is the owner of Brikel Communications/Laurens Direct Mail and he’s threatening to use my cell phone number the same way.

Let me go on the record saying I did not do those calls and was not engaged by Brandon Beach’s campaign to do any robocalls until after they were made. I will stake my professional reputation on this and am calling on Brian Laurens to retract his statement and apologize.

I wrote about the robocalls on July 25th of this year. Note that date, it’ll be important soon.

Brian Laurens, a political consultant to Senator Rogers, accuses Beach of sending out robocalls and transmitting Laurens’s cell phone number as the Caller ID number.

I quoted an article in the Cherokee Tribune that quoted Brian Laurens about the alleged robocalls:

A Holly Springs political consultant who works for Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) is accusing Senate District 21 challenger Brandon Beach of pirating his number and using it to make robo calls on Sunday.

Beach on Monday said his campaign had nothing to do with the robo call and labeled the calls as dirty politics as usual.

Brian Laurens, owner of Brikel Communications and Consulting, is accusing Beach of using his cell phone number to call voters.

Laurens said he discovered the alleged robo calls were made when he returned home from church on Sunday.

The Holly Springs resident said the calls began to pour in around 2 p.m. and went through 8 p.m. Sunday.

“The call said something about Chip Rogers being for the TSPLOST and voting for it and was portrayed as coming from a registered LLC, (the) Grassroots Conservatives of Cherokee County,” he said.

But there are a couple of holes in Brian Laurens‘s story.

Brian says he knows that I did the robocalls in question because Brandon Beach’s disclosure with the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission shows that I did some calls for Beach in his Senate campaign against Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, who is a client of Brian Laurens and Brikel Communications.

Sure enough, there’s my company on Beach’s disclosure for a payment received 9/26/2012 for Automated Calls. I surely did do some calls for Brandon Beach. I don’t deny it. But I do deny doing the calls that Brian Laurens complained about on July 25th, and I deny ever having falsely used somebody else’s Caller ID to put out robocalls in any election campaign ever. Note that date: July 25th.

Washington Political Group, another Georgia company that does robocalls is also on that disclosure for payments as follows:

7/13/2012 $14,032.56
7/16/2012 $13,924.18
7/18/2012 $16,191.58
7/26/2012 $15,908.72
8/06/2012 $2358.59

Washington Political Group also appears on Beach’s earlier disclosure for payments of:

5/21/2012 $10,650.00
6/25/2012 $10,876.89

So that’s more than $80,000 that Beach’s campaign paid to Washington Political Group, who is known to do robocalls. I’m not saying that they did the calls; doing so presents several problems. First, it assumes that Brian Laurens was telling the truth when he complained about the anonymous robocalls. Second, it assumes that Brandon Beach’s campaign did the phone calls, and there is no evidence to that effect. Third, it assumes that Beach’s campaign would be stupid enough to pay for illegal robocalls breaking federal law, but then would comply with Georgia law in order to disclose the payment. Pretty goofy, if you ask me.

Also problematic for Brian Laurens’s claim is the fact that the payment to my company was made two months after the calls he claims went out. If Brandon Beach’s campaign were breaking federal law by transmitting fraudulent Caller ID information, they would have been required to disclose it before the date of any calls I did for them.

But let’s deal with that first issue: whether Brian Laurens can be trusted to tell the truth when it comes to politics. Or whether in fact, Brian Laurens has a documented history of lying about politics. This is really Brian’s problem: his reputation in Georgia politics.

People have asked whether Brian Laurens is truthful or a liar in the political arena before. We’ll be discussing that over the coming days.

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.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

In honor of “Black Friday” at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter, where all black or majority-black dogs and cats can be adopted for $30, a saving of $60, here’s your song of the day.  27459, a female lab, is one of the dogs who is eligible for the discount.

Rally is a Shepherd puppy from Walton County Animal Shelter whom we featured for several days. He was rescued by Pound Puppies ‘n Kitties, and we encourage you to consider donating to support their work saving dogs.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Rasmussen released a poll that indicates that 64% of Americans believe that too many people rely on government aid.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 64% of Adults think there are too many Americans dependent on the government for financial aid. Just 10% think not enough Americans are dependent on the government, while 16% say the level of dependency is about right.

Even most of those who say they are currently living in poverty (56%) feel there are too many Americans dependent on government financial help.

There are sharp partisan differences over this question, however. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of Republicans and 61% of those not affiliated with either of the major parties believe too many Americans are dependent on the government for financial help. But just 40% of Democrats agree. One-in-three adults (33%) in President Obama’s party believe the level of dependency in America today is about right.

Among all Americans, 34% rate government programs designed to help people get out of poverty as effective, while 59% say those programs are not effective. This includes just four percent (4%) who think government anti-poverty programs are Very Effective and 20% who feel they are Not At All Effective.

Only 13% of those currently in poverty consider the government programs effective, compared to 36% of those who are not poor.

Forty-nine percent (49%) of all Americans believe current government anti-poverty programs actually increase the level of poverty in the country. Only 20% think the programs reduce poverty, while just as many (20%) feel they have no impact.

So maybe it’s the mainstream media who are out of touch with Americans, not Mitt Romney. Who would have thought?

The Marietta Daily Journal opines that Romney should continue his discussion of taxes and entitlements.

Romney was 100 percent right to point out that a significant portion of today’s Americans — and especially those who typically support liberal candidates — are voters who see government as the answer to all problems. Too many such Americans have turned John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Speech admonition inside out. “Ask not what your country can do for you: Ask what you can do for your country!” has been dumbed down into “Ask not what I can do for my country: Ask what my country can do for me!”

It’s the difference between the “hand up” philosophy of conservatives and the “hand out” philosophy espoused by many liberals.

To his credit, Romney, as of this writing, has not backed off his remarks. Yes, it surfaced at an unfortunate (for him) time, as he and others were sharply criticizing the incumbent for his incompetent, bungled Middle East policy. But successful candidates play the hand that is dealt them and find ways to trump unfavorable circumstances. And that is what Romney must now do.

The candidate must keep hammering home the fact that Obama has driven the country off the fiscal cliff. He must remind people at every opportunity of Obama’s redistributionist policies and efforts to transform the United States from a free-people, free-market capitalist country into a government-centered entitlement society — an effort that probably has a tax-cutter like JFK spinning in his grave.

Romney is on the right track, as his comments Tuesday on Fox News showed.

Last night, Governor Nathan Deal took to the stage at a Gwinnett County Republican Party rally and spoke about Romney’s comments.

Deal said Romney’s recent comments about a growing percentage of Americans relying on government programs, with a shrinking group of those paying taxes, echoed concerns of political philosophers when this country was created.

“We’re getting outnumbered by people who don’t pay … The truth is the truth,” Deal said to a group of more than 100 GOP leaders. “It is something we ought to wake up and realize because it jeopardizes the country on many levels.”

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers defended his acceptance of reimbursements for expenses paid by his campaign through his lawyer, Doug Chalmers.

“They were not campaign mailings, they were constituent mailings and had nothing to do with his election or re-election,” Chalmers said, who was hired by Rogers last week.

“It was proper for him to be reimbursed because he had loaned his campaign tens of thousands of dollars which were used to make these expenses in first place. There will be no double dipping—it’s perfectly legal,” Chalmers said.

Chalmers said Rogers has already taken steps to correct the matter.

“Even to avoid an appearance of impropriety, when the issue was brought to his attention, he cut a personal check to his campaign for $8,500,” Chalmers said.

Chalmers said that $8,500 check will be on Roger’s Sept. 30 campaign disclosure

But William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said in an interview with the Tribune that Rogers could still face possible consequences.

“I think it could potentially be a problem because the senator notarized a document certifying that everything in the report is true,” Perry said. “I think it would raise a red flag that the campaign, if it was paying for the expenses, is against the law and swearing he paid for himself would potentially be a problem.”

Georgia law prohibits using taxpayer money to pay for campaign costs. Lawmakers can use state funding for newsletters and other printed materials intended to keep constituents informed about issues, which Chalmers said the funds were used for.

Perry said he did not think anyone was out to steal money, but because of lack of oversight, politicians become careless.

It is permissible for a campaign to pay for expenses incurred in the elected official’s performance of his or her duties. (OCGA §21-5-33(a)).

Click Here

Speaking of political direct mail, NPR has a story this morning about the barrage of direct mail that will start filling your mailboxes any day.

In the coming weeks, candidates will bombard your mailboxes with ads. It may seem old-fashioned, but the consultants who devise direct-mail campaigns have become sophisticated about knowing whom to reach and what to say.

“It’s almost because of the changing media landscape that direct mail remains relevant,” says Anil Mammen, who runs a small direct-mail shop in Washington, D.C.

“Direct mail is one of the few mediums left where you can go reach a voter and convince your voter to consume your information, without them having to choose to do it,” says Mammen, who works for Democratic candidates and campaigns. “It’s forced upon them.”

Mammen says direct mail is an ideal medium for negative ads. People are more inclined to believe what they read.

“You can show the citation. You can show the proof if there’s a court document. You can show the court document maybe not in its entirety but enough of it,” he says. “You can deliver negative messages that require a hurdle of believability. That’s what direct mail is really good at.”

Campaigns are spending about 15 percent of their ad budgets on direct mail, says Kantar Media/CMAG, a campaign-ad tracking firm.

Costas Panagopoulos, who teaches political science at Fordham University in New York, says direct mail — unlike broadcast media, TV and radio — is a great way to reach very specific targeted groups of voters

“Political campaigns can use the mountains of available data, demographic, psychographic data about, you know, who people are, what their gender is, what their occupations are, as well as things like what magazines they subscribe to or whether they have children or a pet at home or whether they have a gold [credit] card,” Panagopoulos says.

Like taxes, direct mail isn’t going away anytime soon. This year, campaigns are expected, Panagopoulos says, to spend more than $1 billion to get their messages delivered to your door.

I received the first mailpiece of the General Election two days ago from J. Max Davis, the first Mayor of Brookhaven, who will be elected in the November 6th General Election, though some city council posts will have to be filled in runoff elections.

Professor Alan Abramowitz (D-Emory) says that increasing polarization of the electorate decreases the advantage of incumbency, leading him to tweak his presidential prediction model, which tightens his predicted margin in favor of Barack Obama.

A Georgia business is making national news with its signs in opposition to President Obama’s reelection.

Businesses take a big chance by outing their politics, says Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at New York’s Fordham University.

“They need to weigh the risks against the potential benefits of making such a visible expression of their preferences,” he says.

But the owner of one Georgia business says response to his political missives has been mostly supportive.

At Premier Platforms Inc., which sells, rents and services various kinds of aerial platforms and forklifts, David Cooper uses his giant highway marquee to broadcast his politics.

He’s no fan of President Obama, as anyone driving along Interstate 75 near Byron, Ga., could tell: “Things could be worse. Re-elect Obama — he’ll prove it,” one recent message read, according to Macon newspaper The Telegraph. Cooper told the newspaper he could “count on two hands the number of complaints” he’s gotten; one person threatened to picket the business, but the threat never materialized.

Real Housewives of Campaign 2012? Sounds like a blockbuster reality show.

See, just like our casts, these characters are hyper-competitive and more than willing to have it out in front of a worldwide audience. It’s like, “Who cares what they’re saying about us — as long as they’re talking about us! Consequences, be damned!” I mean, have you SEEN Romney’s secret video where he badmouths 47 percent of Americans? With those loose lips, it’s no wonder his ship is sinking!

Each has questioned the other’s credentials (along with jokes and jabs of birtherism and felony tax fraud) so often, that if you take out Wolf Blitzer and a debate stage and insert Andy Cohen and a “Watch What Happens Live” set, the drama is not as different, as you’d think. By the way, Andy, I can’t wait for the post-election reunion special. The ratings will be HUGE!

The race even has incredibly powerful women that are loved by their fans and feared by their opponents: Ann Romney and Michelle Obama. Each was cheered for having one of the best speeches at her convention. Each possesses a wardrobe many would love to call their own. And each can win over swing voters who may think that the Housewife’s husband is more “Desperate” than “Real.”

Former Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson was interviewed on a local Paulding County website, in which he suggests moving away from Georgia’s antiquated and uncivilized system of foreclosure sales literally on the steps of county courthouses, and into a process that allows homeowners being foreclosed upon a day in court. Given what we know about systematic fraud by foreclosing banks, wrongful foreclosures, robo-signing, and the impact of a foreclosure on families, I might support such a measure, and certainly think we should consider moving away from the status quo.

Samuel Westmoreland, the director of the Fulton County elections and voter registration office was jailed for ten days after his probation was revoked for failure to complete DUI school and community service, which were conditions of his probation for a 2009 DUI.

State Court Judge Wesley B. Taylor, in a July 16 probation revocation hearing, handed down an order postponing Westmoreland’s 10-day sentence until after the county primary elections in July “in order to prevent a potential hardship upon the voters of Fulton County.”

The elections board is scheduled to take up the matter at a specially called meeting that Matarazzo said is scheduled for noon Monday.

Westmoreland already was under fire from voters and election board members for an array of errors that occurred during the July primaries.

The missteps included the elections department assigning 690 voters in Sandy Springs and southeast Atlanta to the wrong state Senate and state House races. It also missed the deadline to certify election results by an hour and a half, leaving the county subject to fines by the state Election Board.

“He needs to be gone,” Commissioner Bill Edwards told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “It just goes to your character.”

Former Governor Sonny Perdue joined the Governors’ Council at the Bipartisan Policy Center, which seeks to bring a state perspective to national issues.

In Augusta, Lori Davis, a former candidate for Mayor, has endorsed Stanley Hawes for City Commission District One.

Former State Rep. Burke Day (R) has applied for an appointment to the Tybee Island City Council to fill the term of council member Frank Schuman who died in office.

Dockworkers unions have agreed to extend the deadline for negotiating a new contract with employers at East coast ports.

“I am pleased to announce that at the close of today’s productive negotiation session, in which progress was made on several important subjects, the parties have agreed to extend the collective bargaining agreement due to expire on September 30 for a 90-day period, (taking it) through Dec. 29,” said George H. Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

After talks broke down last month between the ILA and the alliance, which represents management at 14 deepwater ports between New York and Texas, Cohen coaxed both sides back to the table in hopes of averting an imminent work stoppage

Power Station

Environmentalists think that Georgia should deploy more wind turbines for power generation off the Georgia coast, but Governor Deal disagrees.

“Georgia has a little over 60 gigawatts (of wind resource),” said Jennette Gayer, advocate for Environment Georgia, which helped launch the report. “That’s like 75 average-sized power plants.”

Unlike 11 of the other coastal states, Georgia hasn’t joined the Atlantic States Offshore Wind Consortium, a federal program designed to coordinate and streamline wind development off the Atlantic coast. South Carolina and Florida are the only other hold outs.

But Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s spokesman Brian Robinson indicated via email that the governor is not inclined to support wind energy development now.

“When the markets and the technology advance further, we believe there will be a day when wind energy is a viable option for our state,” he wrote. “Georgia will start using wind energy when the prices are right and the technology is right for the unique nature of our wind energy off the coast.

“Studies show the current technologies available won’t work in Georgia’s environment. There is in fact wind energy potential in Georgia and we have every hope that improvements in technology will one day allow us to use this clean, renewable resource.”

Gov. Deal is correct. As we have seen with solar power, states that adopted utility scale solar power generation paid 3-4 times the current cost for photovoltaic cells, which generate electricity. Today, states considering implementing solar will benefit from dramatic cost reductions brought about through market forces, not goverment subsidies.

Plant Vogtle’s Unit 1 nuclear reactor is offline this week as it’s being refueled, a process that occurs roughly every 18 months.

Steel plates that reinforce concrete construction at the new reactors being built at Vogtle failed safety testing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and have not been installed.

A more detailed investigation to determine the extent of the problem – and any potential effect on the project – will be completed by Nov. 6, the report said.

The inspectors and officials from Shaw Group, the company hired to build the $14 billion project, identified the issues before any plates had been installed, an NRC spokesman said.

In an Aug. 31 interview, Buzz Miller, the executive vice president of nuclear development for Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear, told The Augusta Chronicle that as many as 150 additional workers could be needed to bolster oversight programs that ensure materials meet strict nuclear standards.

In its most recent report to the Georgia Public Service Commission, the company said final projected costs for quality assurance, oversight, operational readiness and regulatory compliance rose from a projected $621 million in 2009 to $755 million in 2012.

Ends & Pieces

A World War 2-era B-17 bomber called “Memphis Belle” is receiving maintenance at Cherokee County Regional Airport until it continues its tour on Monday, but you can visit the plane until then and it will remain based at Cherokee for the next year.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 9, 2012

This good-looking puppy is on his way to becoming a tragic statistic unless someone steps up to adopt or foster him. A large, friendly, playful little guy, the volunteers with Gwinnett County Animal Shelter write that he’ll be the first to be put down if the puppy section fills up. If you want to adopt him, Call the shelter for more information 770-339-3200 and refer to his number 26296.

These little hound or lab puppies apparently get along pretty well and would make a nice pair of friends.They were found stray and are apparently littermates or at least very good buddies. 26437 is male, and 26436 is female, and both are available for adoption today from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens will speak to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa later this month. I suspect this is related to his role at the top elected supporter of Mitt Romney in Georgia. Congratulations to Sam.

Congressional candidate Wright McLeod has asked for a recount in the twelfth district Republican Primary, where he currently is narrowly out of the runoff.

But no one — apparently including McLeod — expects the recount, due to be finished by noon today, to change the result.

“He’s got basically two chances, slim and none,” said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock. “Put the emphasis on none.”

The reason: All but about 2,400 of 60,000-plus ballots in the primary were cast on computerized touch-screen voting machines.

They’ll be retabulated by the district’s 19 counties, said Jared Thomas, spokesman for Secretary of State Brian Kemp, in charge of Georgia elections.

Thomas said he doubts that will change the total very much, if at all.

Experts compare the retabulation process to using a calculator to tally up — yet again — the sum of two plus two.

“It may not change at all unless they find some voting machines had totals that somehow got left out,” Bullock said.

That recount should be finished by noon today. I wonder if any recounts in Georgia have changed election results since the implementation of computerized voting. Email me if you know of any.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s spokeperson isn’t aware of any such cases, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Recounts are “overseen by us and done by the counties just like election night,” said Jared Thomas, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office.

“They will re-scan all the absentee ballots and re-tabulate results” from voting machines, he said.

In a written statement after Georgia verified the first count, Staton said the certification made his “campaign victory official.”

Thomas said he was not aware of any case of a recount changing an outcome.

Since 2002, all Georgia voters have used electronic voting machines.

Potentially more interesting are Senator Cecil Staton’s comments about his role in the Senate Republican Caucus.

But it’s not clear if the tepid endorsement from voters in the district will be followed by a struggle for Staton to remain Senate majority whip. The Senate GOP caucus will vote on leadership after the November general election.

“I have not decided about whether I will run for (majority whip), some other office or return to being a committee chair. You can’t be whip and a full committee chair at the same time,” Staton wrote in an e-mail.

Staton led the Senate Science and Technology Committee before being voted whip two years ago.

There likely will be 36 to 38 Republicans in the state Senate by late November and some of them, wrote Staton, are undecided about who they will support for leadership.

“Conversations at this point about caucus positions invite premature speculation,” he said.

This could lead to an extended conversation about the role of the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion PAC, which is thought to have funded incumbent protection mailpieces for several Senate Republicans.

One might wonder how efficient and effective an operation the Senate Caucus Promotion PAC was when the organization appears to have poured seven mailpieces into the lopsided victory by Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers while spending considerably less in the very close campaigns for Senators Murphy and Staton, who barely won, and Senator Johnny Grant, who was defeated.

Republican Senators may be in for extended discussion of the legality and independence of the Republican Caucus Promotion PAC:

some members of the Republican Caucus in the Senate are wondering exactly who made the decision to donate money that they helped raise to an brand-new independent committee that hired a previously unknown company to assist in the re-election efforts of six of their colleagues.
Publicly, they are saying nothing. Privately, they are furious. “None of us knew anything about” the donation or the mailings, said one Senator.
Another Senate veteran has also denied knowledge of the decision behind the donations, and said he was “surprised embarrassed, mortified and angry,” to learn of them.
Another Senator claimed the donations were “inherently illegal,” not for the lack of disclosure, but because the donation appears to have violated the campaign contribution limits.
And while Republican Senators may be ducking calls and avoiding questions from the press, they’re also getting calls from the people who wrote the big checks to the Republican Senatorial Trust. Those donors want to know why their money is being spent this way, and whether or not their donations were used illegally.

The Savannah Morning News headline, “John Barrow hits prospective foes Lee Anderson and Rick Allen; they hit back — and each other” makes the General Election sound like a Three Stooges move.

Why did U.S. Rep. John Barrow attack two prospective foes this week without knowing which one he’ll run against?

People wondered out loud about that when the Augusta Democrat teed off on Republicans Lee Anderson and Rick Allen.

One possible answer surfaced quickly: Anderson and Allen responded by blasting each other almost as much as Barrow.

“It’s probably what Barrow wanted,” said Kennesaw State University political science professor Kerwin Swint. “He drew them out and got them to beat each other up.

David R. Werner has been promoted by Governor Nathan Deal to Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative and External Affairs. According to the press release,

Werner previously served as deputy executive counsel and the policy adviser on public safety. He also held staff positions in both the state House and state Senate. He is the co-chairman of the Governor’s Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, co-chairman of the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia and a member of the Federalist Society. He and his wife, Suzanne, reside in Atlanta and are members of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.

Kathy Schrader for Judge Banner

Springfield will elect a new Mayor after the resignation of Mayor Joe Quimby Jeff Northway.

Qualifying will cost $35 and will be held from 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 27, through 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at Springfield City Hall, 130 S. Laurel St.

City officials said they recently discovered that Northway was convicted of three felonies in Texas in the 1980s. They said he lied and said he was not a convicted felon when he applied to run for mayor.

Northway resigned July 12 and has declined to comment.

The city said Northway was convicted of two felonies — theft by receiving and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in 1983 in Harris County, Texas. He received a three-year sentence on those charges.

After serving the sentence, he was convicted in 1989 of a third felony for unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Lesli Messinger won the Democratic Primary to take on Republican Congressman Jack Kingston. Apparently, her “Midwestern values” are one of the reasons Georgians will vote for her. Hmmm, blonde hair and midwestern values. Sounds like another candidate named “Leslie”.

Among the recounts that affirmed election night figures was the reelection of Senator Jack Murphy in Forsyth County and Geoff Duncan’s win over former State Rep. Tom Knox.

Incumbent Sen. Jack Murphy received 13,290 votes to challenger Steve Voshall’s 13,176. Murphy’s total was unchanged. Voshall’s final tally represents a loss of one vote.

There was no change in the election night totals in the House District 26 race. Former major league pitcher Geoff Duncan defeated former State Rep. Tom Knox by a count of 4,507 to 4,452.

More than 30 percent of Forsyth County’s registered voters voted in the election.

“I was very happy with that turnout,” [County elections supervisor Barbara] Luth said. “Usually we have a lower turnout in the primary elections.”

Fulton County is doing its usual efficient job of recounting votes in the Sheriff’s race; originally expected to take two days, they finished early by taking some shortcuts.

The law mandated a recount of the sheriff’s Democratic primary because the July 31 results had Jackson winning without a runoff by less than 1 percent. The counting took place in a drab warehouse in northwest Atlanta, where about 20 election workers re-fed absentee and qualified provisional ballots into the computer.

But instead of feeding precinct voting machine results directly from memory cards to the computer, Fulton reused master memory cards of the votes from each precinct created by election workers on election night, which may again cloud the result.

[Sheriff candidate Richard] Lankford asked officials to feed each voting machine’s card separately into the computer. At the very least, officials should have re-created new master memory cards rather than using the old ones, he said.

“Any manual process is not a tamper-proof system,” he said. “You’re almost at a point that it is not worth running for office in Fulton County because you can’t trust the vote counting.”

Serious policy proposal here: the legislature should consider giving the Secretary of State greater authority to supervise elections, including possibly replacing local officials,  where the locals have a record of fumbling procedures.

House District 66 runoff candidates Bob Snelling and Mike Miller answered some questions by the Douglasville Patch. Both candidates agree that Snelling previously served eight years in the State House, but they disagree on what it means.

Bob Snelling: “I have eight years of experience in the Georgia House of Representatives. I learned about the many intricacies of our legislative system. But, more importantly, I built relationships with community leaders throughout the state. That was my strong suit during my years of service, meeting and working with people. Many of those relationships remain to this day. These relationships will be invaluable a I seek to bring local legislative ideas to the process.”

Mike Miller: “My opponent has served in the Georgia Legislature before for some eight years in office. He seeks to return to office to reunite with friends at the State Capitol. We are running for very different reasons and have very different records in elected office. I am running to bring change and conservative principled leadership to the State Capitol.”

“I have been speaking up about the need to improve our ethics laws to include restrictions on lobbyist gifts for bureaucrats and to require candidates to disclose anonymous mailers and robocalls. My opponent has been silent on these matters.”

According to Democratic State Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, who cruised to reelection, Snellville has the highest foreclosure rate in Gwinnett County.

One in every 300 homes in Georgia is in foreclosure, according to the AJC.  That’s double the national average.

In Snellville, (including unincorporated), it’s even worse: 1 in 127 homes are in foreclosure (as of June 2012).

Last month, around 40 percent of home sales in Snellville were foreclosures.

Foreclosure reform is something that is high on Kendrick’s list of priorities.  She has attempted to have bills passed, including HB 781, that would revolutionize the foreclosure process, according to Kendrick, but so far they have all been shut down.

“Next year,” she said, “I want to break down the bill into separate components.  If they won’t pass the whole thing, maybe parts of it will pass.”

One thing she wants to do is change Georgia from a non-judicial foreclosure state to a judicial one.  Every other legal procedure requires a person to hand you the papers, according to Kendrick, but that is not the case with foreclosures.

“Under our current system,” she said, “you get a certified letter and they sell your house on the courthouse step.  It doesn’t go through a judge.”

This one reminds me of a bawdy old rugby song: “Woman says she went to court for a warrant, left with proposition from the judge”.

The alleged incident occurred April 9 after Angela Garmley says she was assaulted by three people who once rented a trailer from her and her husband in Murray County. Garmley said when she went to take out the warrant, Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran propositioned her for sex when she was alone with him in his chambers.

“He asked me if I cheated on my husband,” Garmley, 36, of Chatsworth, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He said he wanted to have a mistress he could trust.”

Cochran says that never happened.

“We’re denying all allegations,” Cochran, who was reelected last month, said Wednesday. “The truth will come out. Right now, I’m not exactly sure what’s going on.”

Cochran did not sign the warrant on April 9. Instead, Garmley said, he asked her to return to court a few days later and to wear a dress but no underwear.

“He said if I did that I would be very satisfied with the decision he’d make on my case,” she said.