Georgia Governor Nathan Deal confirmed Tuesday that he and Atlanta Falcons team officials are trying again to reach a deal on the financing of a proposed new downtown stadium for the team. WABE’s Denis O’Hayer reports.
The talks hit a snag last week, the Governor asked the Falcons to reduce the size of their request for the public share of the money—from $300 million to $200 million. Tuesday at the State Capitol, the Governor said the Falcons’ $300 million request seemed, as he put it, “like a little bit of a high number.”
“Many people recognize the validity of what they (the Falcons) are advocating,” the Governor said. “And my concern is to save the taxpayers, in terms of their commitment to the taxpayer side of the agenda.”
A revised deal for a new stadium currently is being negotiated whereby the Georgia Legislature would not have to vote on increasing the bonding capacity of Georgia World Congress Center to $300 million.
Currently negotiations are underway at the Governor’s mansion between Gov. Nathan Deal, the Atlanta Falcons and the City of Atlanta where the bonding capacity would shift from the state to the city.
No matter which governmental entity would end up issuing the bonds for the $1 billion project, the deal would not change substantially. The $300 million bond package would continue to be backed by the existing hotel-motel taxes that are collected in the City of Atlanta. The Falcons and the National Football League would cover two-thirds of the stadium’s cost.
The major change with this arrangement is that the state legislature could be bypassed altogether. There has been vocal opposition to a new stadium deal among certain legislators, and several polls have shown that there is not much support for a new Atlanta Falcons stadium throughout the state.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
“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.
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 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.
“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.
ATLANTA (November 15, 2012) – Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) has been elected by the Senate Republican Caucus to serve as the next president pro tempore of the Georgia State Senate, effective with the start of the 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections today during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also adopt caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.
“I am humbled by the support shown by my Senate colleagues in today’s election,” said Senator Shafer. “With the upcoming legislative session less than two months away and with several critical issues needing immediate attention, it is imperative that we begin work now.”
“I congratulate Senator David Shafer on being nominated by the Republican Caucus for President Pro Tempore and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”
Senator Shafer will become the 68th president pro tempore in the history of Georgia, the Senate’s second-highest ranking position after the lieutenant governor. The president pro tem chairs the Senate Administrative Affairs Committee, which is responsible for operations of the Senate, and is charged with speaking on behalf of the entire Senate. He also assumes the duties of the lieutenant governor in his absence.
Senator Shafer most recently served as chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee, vice chairman of the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee, and as a member of the Senate Finance, Government Oversight and Rules Committees. He also served as an ex-officio member of the Health and Human Services Committee.
The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol. At that time, the entire Senate will cast a formal vote for president pro tempore.
ATLANTA (November 15, 2012) – Senator Ronnie Chance (R-Tyrone) was elected by the Senate Republican Caucus to become the next majority leader of the Georgia State Senate, effective with the start of the 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections today during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also adopt caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.
“I am honored that my colleagues have placed their faith and confidence in me to serve as Senate Majority Leader,” said Senator Chance. “Looking towards the upcoming legislative session, it will be more important now than ever before to remember why we became a public servant. We are not here for partisan politics or personal benefit. We are here because our constituents have entrusted each one of us to represent their best interests, and we must be held accountable to that task.”
“I congratulate Senator Ronnie Chance on being elected Majority Leader and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”
Once sworn in, Senator Chance will hold the second-highest ranking position in the Georgia State Senate. The majority leader is the primary spokesperson for the majority party and works closely with Senate leadership to develop policy platforms. In addition, the majority leader is also charged with setting the legislative session calendar.
Senator Chance most recently served as chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee and as a member of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions, Ethics, Finance and Higher Education Committees.
The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol. At that time, the entire Senate will cast a formal vote for majority leader.
ATLANTA (November 15, 2012) – Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon) was re-elected today to serve as Majority Whip of the Georgia State Senate, for the 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections today during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also debate and consider caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.“It is a great honor to be re-elected to serve as the Republican Party’s Majority Whip in the Georgia State Senate,” said Sen. Staton. “As Majority Whip, I remain committed to advancing conservative leadership and supporting our caucus and its commitment to legislation that makes Georgia a better place to live, work and raise a family.”
Sen. Staton previously held the position of vice-chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus prior to his appointment as Majority Whip. This will be his second concurrent term as majority whip in the state senate. The Majority Whip’s primary responsibility is to research legislation, educate and inform caucus members, ensure that majority members are present during important votes, and is also responsible for counting votes. The Majority Whip is the third ranking leadership position within the Republican caucus.
“I congratulate Senator Cecil Staton on being elected Majority Whip and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”
Sen. Staton is also currently a member of the Senate Committee on Assignments and the Senate Appropriations Committee and is Chairman of the sub-committee on Higher Education. Additionally, he serves on the Rules, Finance, Transportation, and Banking and Financial Institutions committees and sits on three sub-committees.
The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol.
ATLANTA (November 16, 2012) – Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) was recently elected to serve as Republican Caucus Chair of the Georgia State Senate, effective with the start of the 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also debate and consider caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.
“I want to thank the previous leadership team, the Lt. Governor and my colleagues in the senate for electing me to serve as the Republican Caucus Chair,” said Sen. Miller. “I am honored and humbled by the trust and confidence of my colleagues, and especially the citizens of the 49th Senate District.”
Sen. Miller currently serves as the Governor’s floor leader and will begin serving his first term as caucus chair in January. The Senate Majority Caucus Chair is responsible for working with caucus leaders to develop the caucus agenda, oversee meetings and assist in the development of policy.
“I congratulate Senator Butch Miller on being elected Majority Caucus Chairman and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”
Sen. Miller currently serves as chairman of the State and Local Government Operations Committee and as secretary of the Economic Development Committee. He is also a member of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs and Transportation committees and is an ex-officio member of the Natural Resources and the Environment Committee.
The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol.
ATLANTA (November 16, 2012) – Senator Judson Hill (R-Marietta) was elected yesterday to become the next vice chair of the Senate Republican Caucus, effective with the start of the 152ndLegislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections yesterday during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also adopt caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.“It is an honor and a privilege to receive such strong support from my fellow Republican State Senators,” said Senator Hill. “I look forward to serving as Vice Chair, and it is my intention to drive the Senate Republican Caucus towards good policy measures that are fiscally responsible and promote government efficiency.”
“I congratulate Senator Judson Hill on being elected Majority Caucus Vice Chair and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”
Senator Hill most recently served as chair of the Senate Government Oversight Committee and as a member of the Senate Appropriations, Health and Human Services and Special Judiciary Committees. He also served as an ex-officio member of the Insurance and Labor, Judiciary and Transportation Committees.
The 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol.
ATLANTA (November 16, 2012) – Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) was recently elected to serve as Majority Caucus Secretary of the Georgia State Senate, effective with the start of the 152ndLegislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate Republican Caucus held leadership elections during a retreat at Little Ocmulgee State Park, where they will also debate and consider caucus rules and proposed Senate rules for the upcoming legislative session.
“I am deeply honored to be chosen by my colleagues to serve as the Secretary of the Senate Republican Caucus,” said Sen. Gooch. “I wholeheartedly believe this newly-elected Senate leadership team is committed to advancing fiscally-responsible state government and creating policies that bring about positive change for the people of Georgia. I am humbled by my colleagues trust and look forward to working closely with members of senate leadership and the General Assembly during this upcoming legislative session.”
Sen. Gooch currently serves as Secretary of the Transportation Committee and is also a member of the Economic Development, Government Oversight, State and Local Government Operations and State Institutions and Property Committees. He also serves as Ex-Officio of the Natural Resources and the Environment Committee. In addition, Governor Deal appointed Senator Gooch to the MARTOC Committee in 2011.
“I congratulate Senator Steve Gooch on being elected Majority Caucus Secretary and have great confidence in his leadership and his ability to work together with our colleagues to advance the commonsense conservative agenda that will encourage private sector job growth, strengthen education, and work to address the concerns of our common constituents,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. “This is a united team and together we will do great things for Georgia.”
The General Election date is November 6th, 2012. The deadline for voter registration for the General Election is October 9, 2012, less than one week from today. 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, 2012; here’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.
Tomorrow is “Black Friday” at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter, where black or majority-black dogs and cats can be adopted for $30, which is a $60 discount over most days. 27763 above is an adult, female lab mix who surely qualifies. She is large and friendly and will make a great companion.
27778 is a young, male Border Collie mix, and I think he has enough black fur to qualify. The shelter volunteers rave about how good a dog he is.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections
Georgia’s two U.S. senators, Johnny Isakson of east Cobb and Saxby Chambliss of Moultrie, declared Mitt Romney the winner in the first presidential debate between the former Massachusetts governor and President Barack Obama on Wednesday.
“I wanted to see the Romney that I hoped I would see, and I saw him tonight. He was very, very good,” said Isakson, who watched the debate from home.
Isakson said it was clear that Romney bested Obama in the Denver debate.
“Romney was clear in the definition of his vision, clear in what he planned for the future,” Isakson said. “President Obama was defensive on a lot of the issues.”
It was crucial that Romney perform as well as he did, Isakson said.
“I don’t think there was any question there were some questions out there in terms of where he was going to go,” Isakson said. “He was definitive. He was straightforward. He had a grasp of the issues, and I think he took on the president very well.”
Surprisingly, liberal NPR called Romney “dominant”. If you have nothing better to do with your time, here’s a complete transcript of the debate. And here are some experts deconstructing the body language and political communication skills on display by the candidates.
Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman Mike Berlon releases the following statement regarding the first Presidential debate:
“Tonight’s Presidential debate illustrated the incredible chasm and stark differences that exists between the policies of President Obama and those of Mitt Romney.
“Romney’s tax plan is not only unworkable but is nothing more than an absolute fantasy. His assertions that cutting taxes for the rich somehow equates to increasing revenue and benefits for everyone, including the middle class is simply impossible.
But whether he likes it or not, tax cuts do help create jobs or attract them to Georgia. Governor Deal has said that eliminating the state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing helped the state land Baxter International and Caterpillar, two recent economic development triumphs.
Campaign contribution disclosures are due today for the period ended September 30th. If you find yourself having filing difficulties, here are some tips for what I would do while I’m waiting for the disclosure system to reload.
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens wrote to State School Superintendent John Barge about whether local school boards can publicly oppose the Charter School Amendment. The entire letter is available for viewing as a .pdf file here. Here are the important parts:
Local school boards do not have the legal authority to expend funds or other resources to advocate or oppose the ratification of a constitutional amendment by the voters. They may not do this directly or indirectly through associations to which they may belong.
Counties may not use their resources to persuade voter to support or oppose a ballot question. Such electoral advocacy to voters is not permitted as an exercise of the general power to administer county government or otherwise.
Angela Palm with the Georgia School Boards Association says she wants more clarification from the Attorney General and is concerned the opinion could be in violation of the first amendment.
“If the intent of the letter is to say, no, you can’t talk about this in any way, then I think that’s a definite problem. If the intent is of the letter is to reinforce existing statute that says you can’t use public resources, okay we knew that, but thank you for the reminder, and it doesn’t change anything.”
The [Georgia Supreme]Court acknowledged that [local elected officials] have the right, in their individual capacities, to support the adoption of [a] Constitutional Amendment,’ however they had no constitutional right of free speech to speak at county expense.
Republican state legislators will find themselves in a familiar place when they convene in January: caught between Grover Norquist’s no tax hike pledge that many signed, and local hospitals, who say that renewing the bed tax they pay is actually a good thing because the proceeds plus a federal match are used to pay for Medicaid patients.
Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, president of Americans For Tax Reform, recently told the Republican-dominated General Assembly in a letter that renewing the Hospital Provider Payment Program would violate the anti-tax pledges of about four dozen lawmakers.
Lawmakers adopted the tax in 2010 as state tax collections tanked because of the Great Recession. It uses tax money paid by the hospitals to generate an even larger pot of state and federal health care money that then flows back to the hospitals.
Hospitals with a large share of poor patients get more back in increased Medicaid payments – a government insurance program that covers the poor – than they pay in hospital taxes. Hospitals with a larger share of patients covered by Medicare or private insurance get fewer benefits than they pay out in taxes. Still, those hospitals get an indirect benefit. They don’t have to directly bear the costs of caring for the poor because the tax helps stabilize the budgets of hospitals serving poorer populations.
This may also present a leadership challenge for the new Senate leadership, as the 2010 bed tax vote is cited as a reason for the long-running feud between Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and the incumbent Senate
State Rep. Mike Jacobs, who chairs the MARTA Oversight Committee, says that the MARTA Board failed to comply with open meetings laws, and is trying to derail an investigation by the Attorney General’s office.
State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, said he has evidence from other MARTA board members that director Barbara Babbit Kaufman falsified an affidavit he requested to show compliance with the Open Meetings Act during the search for a new General Manager.
“The problem is I’m being furnished documents that are false — they are being made up as they go along,” said Jacobs, who chairs the legislative committee that oversees MARTA. “I’m pretty red-faced angry about it. I’m dealing with a board that wants to create false documents to satisfy an oversight committee.”
Kaufman said she did not intentionally violate any law.
Jacobs wrote state Attorney General Sam Olens Wednesday to amend his initial complaint about possible MARTA board violations of open meetings, which focused on an email in which Kaufman asked board members to send her their “vote” on a new GM. Jacobs had also said the board’s search committee, chaired by Kaufman, failed to meet required procedures for meeting in private.
The Open Meetings Act requires a vote for a board to go into non-public session. It also requires a notarized affidavit by the committee chairperson stating the legitimate reason for the closure, such as to discuss candidates for a high-profile public job.
Jacobs’ latest letter to Olens essentially says Kaufman created that paperwork only after he complained.
Washington County State Court Judge Robert Wommack Jr. was privately reprimanded by the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission after a March 2012 guilty plea to charges of DUI and excessive speed.
In March, Wommack entered a guilty plea in Laurens County Probate Court. Wommack was sentenced at that time to 12 months probation and ordered to pay a $945 fine, according to the JQC report. His driver’s license was suspended for 120 days, and he was ordered to attend a DUI/risk reduction course, participate for 40 hours in an Alcohol Anonymous program and serve 22 hours of community service, the JQC report said.
It also said Wommack had promptly reported his arrest to the JQC and voluntarily disqualified himself from all cases involving DUIs that were then pending in state court. According to the JQC report, Wommack also discussed with the JQC the facts of his arrest and the resolution of the charges.
The Macon-Bibb County consolidation transition team is recommending that joint operations begin two weeks earlier than originally planned.
Macon and Bibb County governments were scheduled to cease to exist on Jan. 13, 2014, before the new merged government takes effect the next day, Jan. 14. But the committee unanimously decided Wednesday to recommend to the task force that the new government instead go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, said Laura Mathis, deputy director of the Middle Georgia Regional Commission. If the task force agrees, the state legislative delegation would be asked to legally change the official start date, she said.
Bibb County Commissioner Elmo Richardson, who made the motion for the earlier start, said waiting nearly two weeks into a calendar year to put the new government into effect could cause unnecessary inconveniences with everything from payroll, to accounting and insurance.
“From an accounting standpoint, it would be a nightmare,” Richardson said. “It’s just not a clean cut when you’re going to start the government on Jan. 14.”
Media inquiries prompted Augusta City Commissioner Grady Smith to pull a bid on providing plumbing services to the Sheriff’s department.
Smith, Super District 10 commissioner, said his company was building on a long-standing relationship with Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength when Smith Bros. Mechanical made a $24,000 bid last month to do plumbing work at the substation in south Augusta.
The move violated the city’s ethics code, which prohibits commissioners from substantially benefitting from city procurement contracts, unless they apply for an exception.
Smith said his company’s bid was the lowest by $12,000 and that he had an application for the exception on Monday’s finance committee agenda but withdrew the request Wednesday.
Savannah City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney is resigning, according to Mayor Edna Jackson.
Jackson asked for the resignation Sept. 25 after a flurry of management issues that included a $6 million backlog and complete staff turnover of buyers in Purchasing, a botched bid that could have led to a lawsuit and the termination of the emergency management director, a business associate of the city manager. Wednesday about noon, her supporters, dwindling but vocal, gathered for an impromptu press conference outside City Hall.
Chester Dunham, one of her more ardent supporters, said a “reliable source” had told him Small-Toney’s resignation would happen “before 5 o’clock.”
Dunham described Small-Toney as being “railroaded,” and supporter Marilyn Jackson said, “They just beat her down.”
Chatham County Democratic District Attorney Larry Chisolm and Republican challenger Meg Heap took questions from the audience at a joint appearance yesterday.
Heap cited an exodus of as many as 50 employees and the elimination of the elder-abuse prosecutor position as evidence that Chisolm does not deserve a second term. Instead, said the former prosecutor who worked under longtime DA Spencer Lawton, voters should choose her because of her passion for “bringing justice to people who have been victimized by crime.”
Chisolm — who said turnover in his office has been comparable to that of his predecessor’s and that there were not enough elder abuse cases to deserve a single prosecutor — said voters should reelect him because he’s drastically cut down a backlog of cases and has achieved very high rates of felony convictions at trial.
Ends & Pieces
The Augusta Chronicle’s Editorial Board brings us the shocking news that liberal mainstream media edit what they say to present their views as backed-up by facts, and to make Republicans look bad.
Democratic pollster Pat Caddell recently said the media have made themselves “a fundamental threat to the democracy, and, in my opinion … the enemy of the American people.
“And it is a threat to the very future of this country if we allow this stuff to go on. We have crossed a whole new and frightening slide on the slippery slope this last two weeks, and it needs to be talked about.”
Democrat commentator Kirsten Powers, speaking on the Obama administration’s oddly changing stories on who was behind the U.S. embassy attacks – and the media’s relative disinterest in the scandal – says: “In this case, lack of curiosity on the part of the American media very well may kill more Americans.” How? By letting the Obama administration off the hook vis-a-vis questions on security.
Retired newspaper publisher Sam Griffin of Bainbridge, Ga., writes of today’s mainstream media: “Through acts and omissions both subtle and overt, they continually tell us what is fact and what is not, what is important and what is not, what is acceptable and what is not, who won and who lost in every instance of the political day – the aggregate effect of which is an attempt to create self-fulfilling prophecies.”
As we near the one-year anniversary of the spectacular failure that was Occupy Atlanta, some hippies in Savannah held an Occupy Savannah rally that attracted one dude in a dour black dress.
Florida wants more water from Lake Lanier to protect its Gulf Coast oyster industry. Maybe they’ll go in with us on the invasion of Tennessee to get more of our water back.
Local NPR affiliate WABE has the firsthand story of an Atlanta attorney who who put her now-19 year old son up for adoption through an open process and the relationship they now have. It’s an excellent was to spend six minutes.
An historical marker was recently unveiled commemorating the the Second Atlanta International Pop Festival at Middle Georgia Raceway in Byron. A documentary called “Alex Cooley Presents Time Has Come Today” includes footage of that event and two others produced by Atlanta’s Cooley. Another film called Hotlanta, The Great Lost Rock Festival made a debut screening recently and we look forward to seeing it in wider release.