Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 30, 2012


The litter of five puppies above was abandoned in a convenience store parking lot and the three girls and two boys will be available for individual adoption beginning Sunday from the Bainbridge Humane Society.

A popular Christmas season fundraiser for local rescue groups and humane societies is the Pet Pic with Santa. Here’s a list of several places to have your dog or cat photographed with Santa.

Gwinnett County is having photos with Santa at their Animal Shelter, as well as discounted $30 adoptions through December 23d.

We understand the potency of using dogs in marketing, but sometimes you really need an outside opinion on whether your business can really use a dog in its ads. Exhibit one is this display ad from a Hall County urologist.

While they don’t say it, I can only assume from the advertisement that “no needles” combined with a photo of a dog with two tennis balls in its mouth means your vasectomy will be performed by a labrador retriever working without benefit of anesthesia. Hope the dog isn’t named Chopper. [language warning at that link]

Angels Among Us rescued one of the most pitiful severely-neglected dogs I’ve seen and is racking up veterinary bills to find out what he needs. Please consider donating to his care if you are able. If you give online, please note in the online form that you learned about Harding from GaPundit.com. When rescues know where the money comes from it is helpful to them, and to us as we are gaining credibility with rescue groups, which I believe will help us save more animals.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Governor Nathan Deal’s experience in Congress will be useful as he monitors the fiscal negotiations and assesses the impact on Georgia.

“When you’re looking at a project where 70 percent of the cost is expected to be paid by the federal government, that first step of getting it into the federal budget and approved is critical.”

Deal recently said he’d ask state lawmakers for an additional $50 million this year to deepen the port so it can accommodate the larger cargo ships expected when the Panama Canal is expanded in 2015.

If Deal’s request is approved, it’ll bring the state’s share to $231 million. The project’s total price tag is $652 million.

Whether or not Congress can reach a debt reduction deal by the end of the year, federal funds are expected to be tougher to come by in 2013. Nonetheless, Deal says the project is in a good position.

“This is a difficult time to get any new projects in the federal budget but we are hopeful. We think the merits of the project hopefully will be able to convince those in Washington to include it in the next budget.”

State Senator Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and spoke with WABE’s Dennis O’Hayer about the impact of Washington’s negotiations on Georgia’s budget.

“As far as the state budget is concerned, there are some effects that would happen that maybe aren’t as severe as the overall impact on the state from sequestration. What we as a state would do, as far as those cuts that flow through our budget, we’re going to look at those individually and on a case-by-case project decide if we need to try to find the funds to replace any or part of that.”

Mediation with attorneys involved in the lawsuit by environmental groups seeking to stop the Savannah Harbor Expansion and dredging of the Savannah River is taking place in Charleston. Because Charlestonians are historically dispassionate about negotiations involving the federal government.

The Georgia Ports Authority approved spending $2 million to upgrade the roll-on/roll-off cargo capacity at Savannah’s Ocean Terminal.

Restoring the full Pre-K calendar will be another of Governor Deal’s priorities in the 2013 Session of the General Assembly.

Gov. Nathan Deal says he’ll put money in his proposed state budget next year to restore all the days cut from pre-K programs.

Reducing them by 20 days, Deal noted in an interview Wednesday, was part of a bail-out for Georgia’s financially strapped HOPE scholarship program.

It’s funded by state lottery revenues, which have failed to keep pace with HOPE-related costs.

Ten days were restored in this year’s state budget.

“And being able to put 10 more back will bring us back to where we were,” Deal said.

Not certain of retaining their spot as the most embarrassing County in Georgia as Honey Boo-Boo’s Wilkinson County home makes a strong play, Clayton County voters will head to the polls again on December 4th to decide runoffs for the School Board. Whoever’s on the ballot, we can county on Clayton County to make the abosolute worst choice.

Republican District Attorney-elect Meg Daly Heap is preparing to take office in Chatham County.

One priority Heap has set is ramping up prosecution of repeat offenders.

A defendant with three prior felonies can be charged as a recidivist, which means even at the state level, they would not be eligible for parole.

“This is a tool we have, and we need to use it,” she said. “They’re getting out and committing more crimes.”

The State Elections Board informed Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry that he’s not allowed to visit election precincts while he’s a candidate on the ballot unless he is actually voting at the time.

Brink Bradshaw and Kelvin Williams, the director of Thomson-McDuffie County Elections and Voter Registration, lodged the complaint with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections. They accused Usry of intimidating voters by visiting three polling places during last year’s municipal election.

Usry told state investigators that he had heard rumors of irregularities and wanted to check them out. He said he didn’t know it was illegal for a candidate to visit polling places for any reason other than voting.

Electric rates will be lower beginning in January for Georgia Power customers after action by the Georgia Public Service Commission.

“We have low natural gas prices to thank for this rate reduction,” said Georgia PSC Chairman Tim Echols, in a statement. “But I believe our investment in new nuclear will be our saving grace when gas prices rise again decades from now.”

CobbEMC rolled back electric rates while upping the monthly service charge, but says that most ratepayers will pay less net.

The company and its chairman insist the changes will result in unchanged or lowered bills for more than 80 percent of members.

“Apples to apples, whatever you spent in July of 2012, in July of 2013 you’re going to pay less,” Chairman Ed Crowell said. “The service charge accounts for the fixed costs of every customer, whether they have electricity flowing or not. The wiring, the meter, that stays the same. What we found when we tried to reduce rates was that the Wholesale Power Adjustment had been built up over the years with fixed costs, rather than increasing the base service fee. It hasn’t been bill clearly in the past.”

Georgia Solar Utilities will get stomped on by an 800-pund gorilla attempt to revise the Territorial Electric Service Act in the General Assembly in order to compete with Georgia Power, EMCs and municipal electric utilities.

Economic forecasts from the University of Georgia suggest our state’s economy should slightly outpace the rest of the country in 2013.

“We will outperform the average state in 2013,” Robert Sumichrast, dean of UGA’s Terry College of Business, told hundreds of businessmen, politicians and academics Thursday at the Georgia World Congress Center. “The massive restructuring of the state’s private sector is complete and the real estate bubble is over.”

The economist predicted Georgia will achieve a 2.1 percent growth rate next year, compared with a national growth rate of 1.8 percent. That would reverse several years in which Georgia largely lagged the nation in major economic measures such as job losses, home values and personal income.

The UGA forecast cites a dropping unemployment rate, strengthening job growth and a mild rebound in home values, which it expects to grow 3 percent to 5 percent.

Augusta won’t be as lucky.

the forecast … calls for the Augusta area’s employment to grow by 0.4 percent in 2013. That would be an improvement over the negative 2.1 percent pace for this year.

The metro area will lag the rest of the state’s 2.1 percent expansion and the nation’s 1.3 percent.

“Strong performance of the metro area’s services-producing industries, notably health care and private education, will be a positive for the local economy,” the economists wrote.

Hall County’s housing market is near the bottom of the list of metro areas nationwide.

Among 304 metro areas, the Gainesville MSA, which is basically Hall, is ranked No. 301, with a 5.75 percent drop in housing values over the past year. The report is based on the housing price index, which takes into account new and refinanced mortgages.

Two Florida cities — Gainesville and Tallahassee — and Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, N.Y., are the only metro areas that have worse showings, the 77-page report states.

Ends & Pieces

Dahlonega will display what is thought to be the only diving bell that survives from Georgia’s gold rush era. The diving bell was used to prospect on the bottoms of rivers near the town.

The Trust for Public Land is working to link the southern end of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain to the Chattahoochee River to provide for expanded recreation opportunities.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 15, 2012

This is “Reeces,” a black lab mix who  is in run 118 at Cobb County Animal Services and his ID# is 544247. He is probably in immediate danger of euthanasia, as his hold is expired and Cobb County had 63 animals come into the shelter on Tuesday, and possibly even more yesterday.

If you’re considering getting a dog or cat, please consider a shelter animal or adopting from a rescue organization. Thousands of healthy dogs and cats are put down every year in Georgia, and we’re in the middle of the worst part of the year for strays.

Cobb County’s Shelter hours for Adoptions are: Tuesday – Saturday 9:30 AM. to 5:30 PM and Sunday 2 to 5 PM.

 

Happy belated birthday to Augusta, which celebrated with 276 candles on their cake yesterday.

[I]n a letter that was dated June 14, 1736, James Oglethorpe ordered authorities to lay out our town.

In 1739, Oglethorpe himself came to visit the town he had created. He stayed 10 days, then left, but not before leaving Augusta leaders with a thoughtful and logical growth plan.

Augusta’s leaders appear to have disregarded much of it, beginning a tradition that some would say continues.

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Republican State Rep. Robert Dickey is holding a Peaches and Politics fundraiser at Dickey Farms on Thursday, June 21st from 6 to 8 PM. It will feature Speaker David Ralston, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, House Majority Secretary Allen Peake, Ag. Commissioner Gary Black, SOS Brian Kemp, and Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens.

Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Peachtree City’s council is docked the Mayor’s pay from $750 per month to $75 in order to reimburse the city for expenses incurred to defend the Mayor against a libel suit. Former Mayor Harold Logsdon sued current Mayor Don Haddix personally, not as Mayor; the city’s insurance company denied coverage to Haddix twice before agreeing to cover defense costs. Haddix is threatening to cost taxpayers even more money by either resigning and triggering a special election or unspecified legal action.

Apparently, PTC council is serving as a cautionary tale; when the Fayette City Council started arguing, Mayor Greg Clifton said, “I don’t want this to turn into a Peachtree City Council. I want this to be a council that gets along.”

Fayette County Commissioner Robert Horgan is running for reelection in the Republican Primary, and PTC municipal judge Stephen Ott qualified for Fayette County State Court Judge against incumbent Judge Carla Wong McMillian.

Richmond County Sheriff candidate Scott Peebles had campaign signs set on fire last week, one-upping candidate Richard Roundtree, whose sign was used as a weapon in a fight between two women. Roundtree will remain in the race after a complaint alleging he owed back federal taxes was dismissed upon a showing that Roundtree has a payment plan.

Five candidates have announced challenges to incumbent Augusta Commissioner Matt Aitken. Qualifying is next week.

Jeremy Hobbs remains on the ballot for Columbus Council District 8 after producing a Georgia Power bill that was accepted as proof that he meets the residence requirement.

Democratic lawyer Scott Drake announced his campaign against incumbent Republican Senator Don Balfour, saying, “I can no longer stand silently on the sidelines. Democracy is not a spectator sport and public office is about service, not feathering one’s own special interest nest.” In a heavily Republican district, I’ll go ahead and predict that Drake does indeed stay on the sidelines after being crushed in the General Election.

Former state Senator Lee Hawkins, who is unopposed in the election to succeed State Rep. Doug Collins, has signed the pledge to support a cap on lobbyist gifts to legislators. He is the only Hall County legislative candidate to do so.

The South Hall Republican Club will host a debate for candidates for County Commission next Tuesday, June 19th at 6:30 PM at the Spout Springs library in Flowery Branch.

Governor Deal sat for a Q-and-A last week to discuss the $1 billion project to add lanes to I-75 and I-575 in Cobb County.

GPB’s Orlando Montoya discusses the race in the 12th Congressional District:

Dublin attorney Maria Sheffield is courting Tea Party voters focusing on her history as a grassroots organizer.

“This race is just about electing a true conservative who comes from our movement.” Sheffield says. “I think it’s about going to Washington and not just simply casting a vote but it’s about doing the hard work that needs to be done.”

Cherokee County school board district 2 candidates debated.

The candidacies of Willie Saunders against Augusta Superior Court Judge Carlisle Overstreet, and Christopher NeSmith against Northern Circuit Superior Court Judge Thomas Hodges have been challenged in letters to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Clarence Johnson’s campaign against Fulton County Superior Court Judge Todd Markle is also being challenged. The eligibility challenges in all three cases relate to taxes owed.

The Atlanta Tea Party sent out a press release yesterday saying the campaign to increase your taxes via T-SPLOST is deceptive and calling T-SPLOSt advocates are “worried and desperate.”

Lawyers, Guns, and Money

The State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission will meet today and may consider complaints filed against Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign.

Snellville’s City Council will consider banning guns in city parks at the July 9th meeting. Mayor Kellie Kautz, a Democrat, said, “I’m all for people having the right to carry their weapons but, we want to make sure that they’re using them properly.” They may have a problem doing that, as Georgia law preempts municipalities from regulating gun rights.

President Obama is not only leaking white voters, he’s also leaking dollars as roughly 90% of donors of more than $200 to his 2008 campaign have not yet renewed their pledges.

“The 2008 donors who were most likely to give again in 2012 are those with ideological scores most similar to Obama’s, whereas moderate-to-conservative donors and those on far left are significantly less likely to re-up,” [Stanford political scientist Adam] Bonica said.

Obama may try to make up for the shortage of donors by hitting their cells: a ruling by the Federal Elections Commission will allow his campaign to tap its database of more than a million mobile numbers for donations via text. According to The Hill:

Text donations would be capped at between $10 and $50 per billing cycle and campaigns would enforce that restriction through tracking donations from a single user’s mobile phone number to a single premium short code assigned to the political committee. The short code would also enable the aggregator and carriers to ensure “the $50 limit is never exceeded for one political recipient.”

Newt Gingrich’s former head of digital operations Vincent Harris says it will be a game-changer:

The ability to accept donations via text will greatly increase the percentage of donations coming in from mobile users as a whole. On the Gingrich campaign mobile users made up 18% of visitors to the campaign website but only 8% of our donations came via mobile users. The ability to text in a donation should help close that gap. In 2009 I ran the mobile operations for Bob McDonnell’s gubernatorial race in Virginia. We briefly tried raising money off of our opt-in list and had users text back a donation amount that was followed up by a live caller who took credit card information. If we had used the technology discussed on Monday, our program would have been much more successful.

Contrary to previously-published reports, a Gingrich spokesman says that the Newtster’s speaking fees have gone up in some cases and remained steady in others.

Gingrich spokesman RC Hammond said the new rates are not in fact a discount:

Inside the beltway has bounced from $20,000 to $25,000. Continental U.S. remains at $60,000 a speech. And, heading abroad is as much as $150,000.

Turns out there is a demand for new ideas, solutions and innovation Newt is booked into the fall.

Former Georgia State Rep. Gloria Bromell Tinubu (D) may not have escaped a runoff in the Democratic Primary for South Carolina’s Seventh Congressional District after all. A lawsuit asks a judge to order a runoff election.

The state Election Commission will decide Friday whether to call a runoff between Coastal Carolina economics professor Gloria Bromell Tinubu and attorney Preston Brittain. At issue is whether to count the votes of state Rep. Ted Vick, who withdrew May 25 following his arrest on a drunken driving charge, but remained on the ballot.

Without Vick’s more than 2,300 votes, Bromell Tinubu won the four-way race outright, with 52 percent of the vote to Brittain’s 39 percent. But five names were on the ballot. Both the Democratic Party and Brittain’s campaign argue none of the five received a majority, so a runoff is necessary; otherwise, voters are being disenfranchised, they argue.

Days after Vick withdrew, top Democrats called a news conference to endorse 32-year-old Brittain of Myrtle Beach, including U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn.

The director of the state Republican Party, Matt Moore, on Wednesday accused Harpootlian and Columbia insiders of “trying to steal the nomination from Gloria Tinubu,” after getting egg on their face with the endorsement.

But Harpootlian called that nonsense, saying the party is only trying to ensure voters aren’t disenfranchised.

Republicans “need to take a deep breath and some medication, and go home and let us try to resolve this in a legal fashion,” he said.

Nydia Tisdale, who was ordered out of the Cumming City Council chambers by Mayor Ford Gravitt for daring to assert her rights under the state Open Meetings Act, filed a federal lawsuit against Gravitt, also naming the police chief, and deputy chief.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed against Gravitt last week by Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.

Tisdale’s attorney Gerry Weber said while his client appreciates what Olens is doing, her lawsuit seeks personal damages.

“[First] we’re seeking an order from the court ensuring that Ms. Tisdale and other citizens are able to attend the Cumming City Council meetings and to film them,” said Weber.

“We’re also seeking damages for her for what happened to her on the day that she was physically pulled out of the meeting by the chief of police and deputy chief. And the last thing we’re seeking is under the new Open Meetings Law, when it’s violated, that there are civil penalties.”

In the suit, Tisdale asks for a jury trial to hear the case.

“City council meetings are the public’s business,” said Weber. “We think it’s entirely appropriate for a jury to evaluate the excluding of a citizen, a taxpayer from a public meeting.

Tisdale is a blogger for AboutForsyth.com, and Weber said she was recording the meeting so that citizens who could not attend would have access to the proceedings.

According to personal financial disclosures on file with the Georgia Ethics Campaign Finance Commission, Chatham County legislators did nearly $6.5 million in business with the state in 2011. The vast majority of the money was from Medicaid payments for consumers who chose to do business with pharmacies, a home healthcare company, or medical offices owned by legislators.

Speaking of Medicaid, Georgia’s program may be $300 million short for the next fiscal year.

The state Department of Community Health plans to ask the state legislature for roughly $308.2 million to make up the gap for fiscal 2013, Vince Harris, the agency’s chief financial officer, told board members.

The looming deficit comes at a time when the state health agency is also facing the addition of another 600,000-plus Georgians to its Medicaid rolls starting in 2014, as part of the program’s expansion under the health care law.

“The budget numbers that we have are very daunting,” Commissioner David Cook said.

The health care program is also looking at a $90 million deficit for the current fiscal year.

Florida legislators’ net worth got hammered by property value declines and stock market losses. If you think that’s tough, Florida Governor Rick Scott was dead, according to state voter rolls.

Georgia leads the nation in foreclosures with a 30% increase over May 2011, and Atlanta is in second place among the twenty largest metro areas. Carroll County also saw foreclosures up both month-to-month and over the past year.

“There’s no positive news in foreclosures in our region,” said Dr. Joey Smith, assistant professor of economics at University of West Georgia. “We’re seeing foreclosures going up from last year and last month.”

Smith said housing prices are starting to rise some in the area because buyers are bidding against one another for foreclosed homes.

“A lot of neighborhoods where we’re seeing foreclosures are transitioning from owner-occupied homes to rental units,” he said.

The Grantville City Council says, “I’ll see your foreclosure and raise you two demolitions,” as it moves forward to demolish two houses owned by Mayor Jim Sells.

“Some of you think this is about houses that need to be demolished,” Sells said. “What it is about is contempt for your mayor.”

Carrollton’s open carry ordinance — for alcohol — appears to be working for the community.

The Carrollton City Council on June 4 approved two amendments to its alcoholic beverage ordinance. One amendment allows people to carry drinks they have purchased at downtown businesses anywhere in the downtown business area. The second amendment gives the city manager authority to issue special-use permits for organizations to serve alcoholic beverages on city property, such as the amphitheater or city parks.

“What I’m proposing is for people of legal age, if you legally purchase the alcohol, that you be allowed to go from place to place, with the drink in a solo cup,” Coleman said at the June 4 council meeting. “If it’s a Styrofoam cup, with an Irish Pub logo on it, it’s even better, because it shows it was legally purchased there. You can’t sit on the square and bring your cooler and knock down two dozen beers. This is not Savannah, New Orleans or Las Vegas.”

If you’re considering filing a false lien against a public official, you may want to rethink that, as it’s now a felony.

a new state law against so-called sovereign citizens who engage in “paper terrorism” to harass public officials…. makes it a felony to knowingly file false liens against government employees.

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