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.

State Rep. Ron Stephens on Ethics: Strengthen the Commission

From the Savannah Morning News story by Larry Peterson:

Stephens says he has a plan to restore the effectiveness of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

The Savannah Republican and others are gearing up to make political ethics a hot topic at the 2013 legislative session.

“I think he’s onto something,” said Kennesaw State University political scientist Kerwin Swint. “I think a lot of what’s he’s saying make perfect sense.”

The commission’s weakness was cited this summer in a national study that found Georgia the state most at-risk for political corruption.

A report by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity flunked Georgia in — among other categories — “ethics enforcement agencies.”

[The Commission's] budget is more than 40 percent lower than in 2008. And the number of cases of alleged violations it’s handled has declined even more.

Meanwhile, the legislature has stripped it of its authority to make rules.

Lawmakers also saddled it with riding herd on compliance by thousands of candidates for local offices. That, news accounts say, is a chore commission staffers have acknowledged mostly isn’t getting done.

Such candidates must cope with the commission’s over-extended staff and computer systems. They often find it impossible to file their reports on time or find anyone who can answer their questions.

“If you don’t match responsibility with means,” Stephens said, “the folks at the commission can’t do the right thing.”

Accordingly, he said, he’ll propose giving the panel back its rule-making powers and restoring its budget to about its 2008 level — $1.9 million.

Stephens said he might propose barring lobbyists from making campaign donations to the legislative caucuses or political parties while the legislature is session.

He says the practice is an end run around the current ban on legislators accepting campaign cash during the session.

“And if some of the money a special interest gives gets spent on a legislator,” he said, “we don’t know where it came from.”

Stephens said he’ll attach his ideas as amendments to a bill due to be carried by Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus.

It would limit the value of lobbyist gifts to legislators to $100.

Governor: ‘Worthwhile discussion’

Gov. Nathan Deal seems open to considering Stephens’ ideas.

Deal said last week in an interview that he included an additional $260,000 commission budget this year.

He also acknowledged widespread concerns about the panel’s attempts to monitor local-level candidates.

But he said any law giving it back its rule-making powers must be worded to make sure it stays “within the confines of its jurisdiction.”

House and Senate leaders are mulling over ideas such as Stephens’ and McKoon’s, he said.

“I think it’s a worthwhile discussion,” he said. “And I look forward to it moving forward.”

Much will depend on House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, who likely can stop anything he’s strongly against.

Speaker David Ralston: “another year where you’re going to see budget cuts as opposed to adds.”

From the Marietta Daily Journal:

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) said he’s facing a $300 million hole as he heads into the coming legislative session in January.

Ralston, who was guest speaker at the Marietta Area Council meeting of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce at the Mansour Center on Wednesday, gave a talk about public service. The Journal caught up with him afterward to ask whether there is money to support the request by Cobb Schools Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, who wants the legislature to eliminate the austerity cuts to the school system, cuts state Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb) said have cost the system $425 million since 2003.

“I see a budget that as we are preparing to go into the session is over $300 million dollars short because of shortfall in Medicaid that’s due to the economic downtown, it’s due to population increases, and so when we go in with that big a hole I think that increasing funding is going to be very, very challenging in that environment,” Ralston said. “You know, there’s a lot of things that we would like to do, but we have to do the responsible thing and that’s balance the budget and do it without increasing taxes, so this is going to be another year where you’re going to see budget cuts as opposed to adds.”

Marietta attorney and lobbyist Chuck Clay, among those who attended the Chamber breakfast, said health care is “driving the train right into the ditch.”

“Every time we turn around there’s a larger gap in Medicaid, there’s a larger shortfall in the state health benefit plan,” Clay said. “Everywhere you turn, health care–related issues seem to be the tar we cannot extricate ourselves from or get our arms around in any coherent way, which is not unique to Georgia.”

Note to liberals everywhere: this is why we can’t afford to cover more people through magical free federal money.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 29, 2012

This young lab mix puppy is about 12 weeks old and the volunteers at Murray County Animal Shelter says he’s sweet, friendly, gets along with other dogs and loves people. He needs to be rescued ASAP or he will be euthanized on Friday morning. Transportation to Atlanta is available.

Angels Among Us Rescue has foster care lined up for these Golden mix puppies, and is trying to raise $1000 for their vetting to ensure they can save them. Please consider making a donation to Angels Among Us Rescue today and put “GaPundit – Golden Puppies” in the online donation form.

Flash here (28341) is a young, friendly male Basset Hound who is available for adoption today from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

28301 is an adult male lemon Beagle mix who is available for adoption today from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

Villa Rica veterinarian Stuart “Doc Win” Burnett  is doing his part to reduce euthanasia of dogs and cats.

His passion for animals and his willingness to serve the community has led to the formation of two new endeavors meant to keep dogs and cats from being put to sleep and providing affordable veterinarian services for those who can’t afford it.

The American Veterinary Animal Welfare Foundation was launched last year as a way to rescue animals in local shelters that would otherwise be euthanized, and to help offset some of the free veterinary care he and his staff often provide.

“We are rescuing dogs off death row at the shelters,” said Deborah York, president of the Animal Welfare Foundation. “We’re bringing them in, vetting them and finding them homes.”

The non-profit foundation relies entirely on donations. Since receiving its rescue license in May, nearly 100 pets have been rescued by the foundation. Though the foundation rescues animals it is not a drop-off location for people who simply don’t want their animals.

Once a month, the foundation has a booth at PetSmart in Douglasville where it offers animals for adoption, and all the animals are on display at Petfinder.com. The cost of adoption is $150 for males and $200 for females, which covers an animal being fully vetted, microchipped and spayed/neutered.

Besides donated funds, the foundation has set up a thrift store at its previous clinic building across from its current location on Thomas Dorsey Drive — once a month items are sold and the money goes to pet rescue. Items to be sold can be donated by contacting Atlanta West Veterinary Hospital.

Burnett and his staff provide about 15 to 20 hours a week of what they refer to as “community service,” which is veterinary care for those who can’t afford to pay. Donations to the foundation also will go toward helping fund some of these pro bono services.

“We’re trying to serve the community and make a living too,” Burnett said.

Burnett and fellow veterinarian Steve Hathcock will launch the Bay Springs Clinic on Nov. 13, which will provide affordable spay/neuter procedures and other smaller veterinary services. The clinic will be located behind Vaughn Tile on Highway 61 North.

Anyone seeking more information about the clinic or wanting to donate to the foundation can contact Atlanta West at 770-459-2253, email [email protected] or visit the website at www.americanveterinarywelfarefoundation.com.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Over the weekend, Early and Advance voting surpassed the one million mark, with 99,979 votes being cast according to the latest absentee voter file from the Secretary of State’s office. Of the early/advance voters on Saturday for whom the SOS reported a “Last Party Primary,” 54% had last voted in a Republican Primary and 46% in a Democratic Primary.

WSB reported Friday that Gwinnett County had its longest waits of the election.

Lines were up to two-and-a-half hours long between 8:30am and noon at the main elections office in Lawrenceville. (more…)

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 8, 2012

27950 (yellow) and 27951 (black) are little female puppies described as lab mix, who will be available for adoption beginning Wednesday from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. If you look closely at the photo on the right, it looks like the yellow one is hugging her sister. You should go adopt both of them.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The General Election date is November 6th, 2012. The deadline for voter registration for the General Election is TOMORROW, October 9, 2012. Today would be a good day to email five friends with the following information, so they can make sure they’re registered.

To check your voter registration or view a sample ballot, please visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and use their MVP voter registration tool.

For questions about election dates, always check with the Georgia Secretary of State’s website or your local County Elections Office.

Advanced voting in person starts October 15, 2012here’s where and when to vote early in person in your county. More than 10,000 voters are marked as having already voted in the November 6th General Election, according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Statewide Poll of Georgia Voters shows Romney’s lead over Obama increasing
In the month between September 4th and October 4th, Governor Mitt Romney’s lead over President Obama among Georgia voters increased by between 5.8 and 7.6 points. While Romney’s lead in Georgia has long been accepted as insurmountable, the increase means that Republican candidates down the ballot will benefit more from the coattail effect.
What does it mean to say that the lead has changed by 5.8 to 7.6 points? It means that if the demographics of the electorate resemble those of the 2008 General Election, Romney has gained 5.8 points, and if they resemble the 2010 General Election, Romney is up by 7.6 points.
Adjusting poll results to bring the demographics in line with a set of assumptions is called “weighting.” Here’s a lot of information about the process if you’re completely obsessed with polling.
Pundits have been arguing over the question of whether the electorate will be like 2008, and it’s an important point, as we can see that it affects the outcome of the election.
The tables above show how this works in a simplified manner. One of the major factors that led to President Obama’s election in 2008 was the extraordinarily high turnout of younger voters; the difference between 25% of 2008 voters being 18-34 years old and less than fifteen percent in 2010 was important because Obama was more popular with these voters.
Ultimately, when I look at polls, what I’m looking for is not so much exact numbers separating the candidates, but the direction each is moving. And here in Georgia, Romney is moving up and Obama is slipping.
Romney is up in polls in swing states as well according to Nate Silver.
On Friday, Mitt Romney had his best day in state-level polling since at least the party conventions, something that very probably reflects improvement in his standing following the presidential debate in Denver on Wednesday.

Two automated polling firms, Rasmussen Reports and We Ask America, released polls in Ohio, Florida and Virginia on Friday. All of these polls were conducted on Thursday, the day after the Denver debate.

In the Rasmussen Reports polls, Mr. Romney trailed President Obama by one point in Ohio. But he led him by one point in Virginia and by two points in Florida.

These are very good numbers for Mr. Romney as compared with the ones we were seeing recently, although part of that is because Rasmussen has shown more favorable numbers for him in these states throughout the year. As compared with Rasmussen Reports’ previous polls of the same states, the margin in Ohio held steady, but Mr. Romney gained two points in Virginia and four in Florida, for an average gain of two points among the three states.

Georgia College Republicans were in Virginia this past weekend and will be in Florida next weekend. Georgia Young Republicans also are headed to Florida this weekend, where they will go door-to-door on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and phonebank on Saturday evening.

Georgia Political News

Senator John Bulloch (R-Ochlocknee) has been hospitalized for meningitis and appears to be improving.

The qualifications challenge against Democratic state house candidate Ronnie Mabra has been settled, as a Fulton County Superior Court judge denied an appeal to the decision by Secretary of State Brian Kemp that Mabra is a resident of the district.

The AJC reported extensively about the campaign by former Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Paulding) to return to the Gold Dome.

Political signs are popping up in west Georgia. Campaign mailers are cluttering mailboxes. The race in the special election for the open seat in state Senate District 30 is off and running.

But Glenn Richardson, the once powerful Speaker of the House of Georgia, is still struggling at the starting line. By late-week, the man who once directed a quarter-million-dollar war chest and engineered a historic Republican takeover in the House, was still waiting to get his yard signs back from the printer.

There was a reason for the delay. “I had to have the money before I ordered them,” the Paulding County attorney said a bit sheepishly. “I’m not independently wealthy.”

In fact, he said, he’s pretty close to broke. Most months, he struggles to pay his mortgage. And campaign contributions are not exactly flowing in. What once was an endless stream of $1,000 donations is now drips and drabs of checks with one or two fewer zeroes.

While the bit about waiting until he could afford yard signs is a nice device for framing the hard-luck story, it’s no longer true, as Richardson had yardsigns available on Sunday.

The AJC writes further:

The Nov. 6 primary most likely will go to a runoff on Dec. 4, observers say, because there are four candidates, all with built-in geographical constituencies. More than half the nearly 1,000-square-mile, 90,000-voter district is in Carroll County and the other portions are in Douglas and Paulding counties.

Hembree, a Republican state rep with 18 years in office lives near Douglasville and has roots in Carroll. Naughton and Dugan both live in Carroll County.

Hembree has $49,000 in his election fund as a state rep but said he does not know it he can use the funds. In 2009, Richardson contributed $219,000 from his election fund to MMV Alliance PAC, a fund he started to elect Republicans. He said he cannot use the money for his election. Naughton, a successful businessman in his own right, is related by marriage to the Richards family, who owns Southwire, the cable manufacturing giant in Carrollton.

The two-month-long race, Hembree said, is a “100-yard dash at Olympic pace,” forcing candidates to eschew a slow, get-to-know-voters campaign and instead try to find them in groups whenever they can. Also, he hits the phones hard for contributions, making 100 calls a day.

“It’s a very grueling process,” Hembree said.

I think the AJC is wrong. We polled that district and found that Hembree leads with 38.7% to 10.2% for Richardson and both of the Carroll County candidates in single digits. I don’t see how Hembree doesn’t win outright on November 6th.

State Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Gwinnett) was appointed to the legislature’s Joint Human Trafficking Commission by Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge).

“I look forward to working with the other members of the Study Committee on this very important issue,” Brockway said in a statement. “Human trafficking is a brutal crime and every part of our community can play a role in providing the victims the help they need.”

Republican Congressman Rob Woodall (R-7) will meet his longshot Democratic challenger in a debate on October 15th from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at Gwinnett Technical College’s Busbee Center, located at 5150 Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville.

Republican Chatham County Commissioner Helen Stone was reimbursed for mileage to attend political events, including her own reelection announcement.

After being questioned by a reporter, Stone agreed the mileage reimbursements were inappropriate.

“I am not perfect,” Stone said. “I will screw up from time to time.”

Stone said it was questionable whether the meet and greets she attended were ineligible for mileage reimbursements — since she was meeting her constituents — but she decided to refund the county for those expenses to avoid any possible impropriety.

“I would rather err on the side of caution and get it right,” she said. “At this point my integrity as a commissioner far outweighs any monetary expense.”

Stone maintained that reimbursements for attending the campaign events of other Republican candidates were legitimate because they gave her a chance to learn about their platforms and she may be working with some of them.

The Macon Telegraph profiles Republican State Rep. Matt Hatchett and his Democratic challenger.

“My platform last time was almost the same as it is now — trying to recruit jobs back to our community,” said Hatchett, first elected in 2010.

He proudly points to one tax change he helped pass earlier this year: eliminating the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing.

“That’s already helping to attract jobs,” Hatchett said. He thinks that proposal is part of why Dinex and Erdrich, a pair of European manufacturers, came to Laurens County in early 2012, both bringing about 250 jobs.

The incumbent supports further changes, including a proposal to shift the state’s tax levies, taxing incomes less and sales more.

“I’m definitely a consumption tax person myself. I think that’s one of the fairer taxes,” Hatchett said.

Redistricting and Voting

Greene County Commission districts will be redrawn by the Legislative Reapportionment Office on a “blind” basis that ignores where incumbents live or the districts they currently represent:

At least two commissioners, however, still believe it’s the wrong way to go, contending the latest action still exhibits racism.

A blind map simply means that those drawing up a new district voting map won’t be concerned about what districts incumbent commissioners now represent.

“This is the best way to draw up the new map,” Channell said, following a 3-2 vote by commissioners to have officials with the Georgia Reapportionment Office draw the map, as opposed to it being drawn, locally, by commissioners and members of the Greene County Board of Education. “It takes away all the arguing that we had in the past.”

Two members of the five-member commission panel, Commissioners Marion Rhodes and Titus Andrews Sr. don’t like the idea of the state drawing up the new map. And they expressed their views, raising concerns already addressed in a federal lawsuit that was brought against the county earlier this year by members of the Greene County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

“I totally disagree with the whole process,” Andrews said, noting there were two existing maps on the table that already had been drawn up, locally. He said he couldn’t understand why commissioners couldn’t revisit one of those maps.

“Either one of those maps would be sufficient,” Andrews said.

“I feel the same way,” Rhodes said.

Commissioner Walter L. “Bud” Sanders said he didn’t believe either one of those maps would work, contending that the new map must conform to DOJ guidelines.

“It’s understood,” Channell replied.

Sanders quickly fired back, saying, “I don’t know if it’s understood or not by the state.”

Commissioner Gerald Torbert also weighed in, saying he favored incumbents not being considered when drawing up a new map.

Maps drawn up earlier by commissioners and school board members later were rejected by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The lawsuit by the NAACP followed.

Newnan City Council members will vote on new district maps for their own districts.

Newnan City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on new redistricting maps that will change how council members are elected and what districts voters live in.

The decision likely will mean council will have at least two sitting members in the same district and possibly three, meaning they will have to run against each other in the next election.

There are three maps under consideration, although one known as the “Butterfly Option” because of its shape, has little chance because it would dilute minority voting strength. And because the U.S. Department of Justice has to approve the new districts, there’s little hope it would pass their approval.

That option is the only one where none of the council members would have to run against each other. It would create six separate districts with voters in each district voting for one council member. The current makeup, which also includes six council members, splits the city into four districts and two super districts — voters select the council member from their district, as well as one super district representative.
Fulton County Elections Board member William Riley is said to have influenced his board fellow members to hire Sam Westmoreland.
When a panel of experts first rated candidates for the job, Westmoreland landed at the bottom of the list. Out of nine qualified applicants, he ranked seventh. But then William Riley, a board member and friend of Westmoreland, intervened and pushed for changes that allowed him to win the $105,000-a-year job.

The original scores were tossed out and board members themselves did another round of interviews. This time, Westmoreland ranked first. The board voted him in, choosing a onetime elections board colleague over competitors with years of election experience. Documents show it disregarded its own written hiring plan and failed to check his background or call his last three employers.

Riley said to blame him for giving Westmoreland an advantage is to give him too much credit.

“I can’t pick him,” he said. “It takes three votes to do anything.”

Westmoreland, a real estate lawyer, would go on to oversee a sloppy job of adjusting precinct lines for redistricting, leading to a bungled July primary where 690 voters in Sandy Springs and southeast Atlanta got assigned to the wrong state Senate and state House races.

Riley, a Republican Party appointee to the elections board, strongly denies friendship was his motive, but acknowledged politics played a role.

While he was friends with Westmoreland and had him to his home for dinner on several occasions, he said he also believed he was the best person for the job. He said he had become concerned that the county’s Registration and Elections Department was morphing into an arm of the Democratic Party, and he intervened because he feared the panel’s top picks would be too politically biased.

Although Westmoreland is a solid Democrat and a former head of the county Democratic party, Riley said he had worked with him for years and trusted him to keep politics out of the job. “He was my professional friend more than he was any other kind of friend,” Riley said. “He was best suited for this job, better than any of the other candidates.”

Quote of the Day, from the Savannah Morning News

“I’m an undecided voter and no one has knocked on my door and asked for a vote. All I’ve gotten is solicitations for money and emails. Until someone knocks on my door I guess I’ll waste my vote on a Libertarian.”

Ethics

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Georgia candidates on the November ballot were required to file Campaign Contribution Disclosures with the State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission last week.

In Arizona, a State Representative pled guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for his actions as a City Councilman in Tempe before he was elected to the legislature.

Phoenix, Arizona – Arizona State Representative Paul Ben Arredondo pled guilty today in Phoenix federal court, admitting that he solicited and took a bribe in exchange for promises of official action both as a city councilmember and a state representative. Arredondo also pleaded guilty to mail fraud, admitting that he defrauded donors to the Ben Arredondo scholarship fund.

Arredondo pleaded guilty to depriving the citizens of the city of Tempe, Ariz., and the state of Arizona of his honest services as an elected official, and to committing mail fraud. He entered his guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence Anderson.

Arredondo, 65, of Tempe, was a Tempe city councilmember for approximately 16 years, until July 2010. In November 2010, Arredondo was elected to the House of Representatives of the Arizona State Legislature.

During his plea, Arredondo admitted that from February 2009 to November 2010, he solicited and accepted things of value, collectively a bribe, from representatives of “Company A,” a fictitious company operated by FBI undercover agents that was purportedly seeking to develop real estate projects in Tempe.

Arredondo took the bribe with the intent to be influenced in the performance of his official duties, first as a councilmember and later as an elected member of the Arizona House of Representatives. Arredondo admitted that the things he took included tickets to college and professional sporting events, some of which he caused to be mailed to his home, and tables at charity events with his choice of guests. [Emphasis added].

In exchange for the bribe, Arredondo agreed to take a number of official actions, including revealing confidential information to Company A – such as the price Tempe would be willing to accept for property and the best way to present a purchase proposal. He also agreed to use his position as a councilmember to influence the decisions of other Tempe officials in ways that were favorable to Company A; to contact various Tempe officials to facilitate and promote the company’s efforts to win support for its real estate project; and, following his election to the Arizona House of Representatives, to assure representatives of Company A that he would continue to support Company A’s project. Arredondo did not disclose that he had received anything of value from representatives of the company during any of his interactions with Tempe officials about Company A.

Arredondo pleaded guilty to one count each of honest services mail fraud and mail fraud. Each charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the amount gained or lost in the scheme. Sentencing has been scheduled for Jan. 22, 2013.

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