Senator Josh McKoon discusses Senate Resolution 6

In addition to other legislation he’s introduced, Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) has offered Senate Resolution 6, which would set up a statewide referendum to amend the Georgia Constitution and allow the Attorney General to empanel grand juries with statewide jurisdiction to hear allegations of official misconduct.

Here’s the jurisdiction:

(e) The subject matter jurisdiction of state-wide grand juries shall extend to the  investigation and indictment of persons and other legal entities for any crime involving corruption in the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the state, any political subdivision or municipality of the state, or any authority or instrumentality of the state, a political subdivision, or municipality; fraud by a vendor or recipient of goods or service for which funding has been provided by the Department of Community Health; any violation of the election laws of this state; violation of the oath of a public officer; bribery; false statements, representations, or writings concerning matters within the jurisdiction of state and local governments; conspiracy to defraud the state or any political subdivision or municipality thereof; and any other criminal activity for which the Governor has directed the Attorney General to petition the Supreme Court for the empaneling of a state-wide grand jury.

I believe this is important in order to provide a backup in cases in which local prosecutors are unable or unwilling to prosecute alleged official misconduct.

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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.

Ethics Reform a lonely calling under the Gold Dome

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

At a meeting on ethics reform this month, State Sen. Josh McKoon reflected on the advice he was given two years ago when he entered the Senate.

“Sit down, shut up and listen,” he said.

Instead of taking a backbencher’s traditional role, McKoon agitated in his own party for ethics reform, a politically tricky maneuver even for a veteran legislator. And while it did not endear him to his caucus, McKoon’s retelling drew a chuckle from Democratic leader Sen. Steve Henson, D-Tucker, an ethics ally who sat next to McKoon at the event.

McKoon, a conservative Republican from Columbus, and the Georgia Tea Party Patriots, a group led by solid conservatives with political backgrounds, are among the leaders at the Capitol calling for ethics reform. But despite their Republican bona fides, sometimes they appeared to have more friends among Democrats than within their own party.

The political crossed wires make little impression on Julianne Thompson, co-founder of the Georgia Tea Party Patriots. At least not when it comes to ethics.

“This is not a partisan issue,” she said. “It’s about what is doing right for the citizens of Georgia.”

For the past two years, a loose coalition of tea party groups pushed the Legislature to end the practice of lawmakers accepting unlimited gifts from lobbyists. To get it done, they have aligned themselves with watchdog groups like Common Cause Georgia and Georgia Watch that do not share the tea party’s political outlook but do share their desire for ethics reform.

McKoon said he was told his approach would have political consequences.

“You can feel very lonely when you are up there,” he said of the Capitol. “But there are nine and a half million people who are not in that building.”

McKoon said he was encouraged by the huge majorities that voted in favor of restricting gifts in nonbinding questions on this summer’s party primaries.

“Those kind of things indicate we are really on the right track,” he said.

McKoon’s crusade provoked grumbling from more experienced members of his own caucus. McKoon heard it, but he said he is comfortable with the choices he’s made.

He said he believes his legislative colleagues work hard and are not corrupt, but the public’s trust in government is so low that action must be taken.

“That’s why we have to get this right,” he 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.

Galloway “New faces emerged” in Senate Republican Caucus Leadership contest

From Jim Galloway’s Political Insider:

“The fact that Cagle’s name was included in the press release may be more important than what the lieutenant governor said. The breach with Senate leadership has been that wide – to the point that Gov. Nathan Deal was quietly drawn into the machinations that resulted in Thursday’s vote.”

“The fight for control of the Senate has disrupted the first two years of Deal’s governorship, and threatened a third.”

“New faces emerged in the counter-coup, which could portend new spheres of influence when the Legislature convenes in January. Renee Unterman of Buford, whose district abuts Shafer’s, was a key force in gathering up votes for the new leader. Josh McKoon of Columbus – whose push for a cap on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers has made him unpopular in many quarters of the state Capitol – served as parliamentary strategist during the Ocmulgee takeover.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 18, 2012

27525 is a young, male, adult yellow lab who has found himself on the wrong side of the law and now waits to be bailed out and taken to his new home from the Gwinnett Animal Shelter. Volunteers at the shelter describe him as friendly and he becomes available on Saturday.

27459 is an adult, female black lab who will become available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter tomorrow. Pretty sure that’s a friendly dog right there.

27427 (above, female) and 27426 (below, male) are baby chocolate labs who are available today for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. These two are siblings and are both described as playful and friendly.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Opponents of the Charter School Amendment complain that the preamble to the ballot question includes misleading statements designed to entice voters to back the measure.

[O]pponents of a November ballot question are also crying foul.

They’re upset over the preamble wording for the Charter School Commission Amendment.

It reads, “Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options.”

The amendment vote was authorized by the Georgia Legislature in response to the previous Charter Schools Commission being declared unconstitutional by a court ruling.

Now voters will get to decide whether to recreate the commission.

Like T-SPLOST, it’s a hot issue that has non-partisan supporters and opponents.

Opponent Elizabeth Hooper told 11 Alive on Wednesday that she believes the Charter Schools Amendment preamble is also rigged to get “yes” votes.

“It’s absolutely biased,” she said, “Who wouldn’t be for improving student achievement?”

“To say that is going to happen is a lie,” she added.

Bert Brantley, spokesman for the pro amendment group Families for Better Public Schools, told 11 Alive News a recent study by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement proves they make a difference.

“I think it’s factual,” he said of the preamble wording.

“We’ve got proof that state charter schools perform better than the schools in the districts where those charters are located,” Brantley said.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who took heat for the T-SPLOST preamble wording, is distancing himself from this one.

Kemp spokesman Jared Thomas wrote 11 Alive that “The Secretary of State does not choose the Constitutional amendment ballot language.”

“That task falls to the Constitutional Amendments Publication Board…comprised of the Governor, Speaker (of the House) and Lt. Governor. Any language they choose must be approved by 2/3 of their board,” Thomas added in his statement.

Meanwhile, a recent poll by Republican Todd Rehm of GaPundit.com showed 48% support the amendment, while 26% oppose it.

Columbia County News-Times writer Barry Paschall argues that the Charter School Amendment will harm local schools.

Columbia County schools, like all public schools in the state, will be further damaged by the continued drain of funds toward private, for-profit schools. That’s why another analysis found much of the money behind the amendment flows from out-of-state private school companies hoping to reap millions if it passes.

Perhaps that also explains the recent commentary from an Arkansas professor boosting the amendment for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

In it, Jay Greene crowed about charter school successes around the country – but failed, oddly, to mention any from Georgia. Could that be because a study last year showed charter schools in Georgia perform no better, and in some cases slightly worse, on testing than Georgia’s public schools?

Even with the eminent danger to our financially struggling but academically strong local schools, and with virtually no evidence to support the amendment’s passage, most Columbia County voters likely will stab their own school system in the back so they can say they voted for what they think is “school choice.”

The Gwinnett County Commission is back to its full complement of five unindicted Commissioners, as Jace Brooks was sworn in yesterday.

[Commissioner Lynette] Howard said she attended Monday’s ceremony to show Brooks support.

“He makes for more sound decisions in Gwinnett County, when you have five people making that decision instead of less than, and all parts of the county are represented,” Howard said. “And District 1 has their own representative. It’s good for the people in District 1 to have their own elected official.”

Brooks said the commissioners would begin work on the budget in November.

“Now it’s time to start doing what I talked about during the campaign,” Brooks said. “The slow process of trying to rebuild the trust. That’s really where it’s got to start.”

The Lake Lanier Legislative Caucus, including members from Gwinnett, Hall, Forsyth and Dawson counties, will meet publicly today at 4 PM at the Buford Community Center, located at 2200 Buford Highway, across from City Hall on Buford Drive.

Nerds patriots at Gainesville High School set up voter registration tables yesterday to mark the 225th Anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution by helping their colleagues register to vote.

The Augusta Canal National Heritage Area may lose federal funding this month as its funding sunsets.

[Augusta Canal Authority executive director Dayton] Sherrouse said it is possible – but not certain – that the “continuing resolution” that allows the government to keep operating under the previous year’s budget until a new one is adopted could preserve Augusta’s allocation for next year.

This year, that allocation was slightly more than $300,000, making up about 20 percent of the canal authority’s annual operating budget. Other funding sources include grants, sale of hydropower from the canal’s turbines, and revenues from boat tours and other activities.

Republican candidate in the Twelfth Congressional District Lee Anderson has declined the Atlanta Press Club debate against Democrat John Barrow. Barrow has said that he’ll go if Anderson does, but will not attend to debate an empty podium. I wonder if they’ll air 30 minutes of dead air.

“Lee Anderson will consider sharing the stage with Barrow once he stands in front of a local television camera and confesses his politically disastrous secret – he’s voting for Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi,” [Anderson spokesman Ryan] Mahoney said in a statement.

Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has asked the court to dismiss 37 felony counts included in an indictment against Hill, claiming they were politically motivated. Walton County District Attorney Layla Zon called the claim by Hill “ludicrous”. Hill’s lawyers make an interesting claim that if resolved may affect campaigns going forward:

He also is accused of diverting money from his failed 2008 re-election campaign to himself.

“He is essentially taking from himself and therefore cannot be guilty of a crime,” Frey argued.

Zon, the district attorney for Newton and Walton counties was appointed special prosecutor in this case.“It’s not his money. The fact that he keeps arguing the campaign money is his is absurd,” she said.

She said she found it incredulous that Hill would claim it was his to do with as he wished.

“The campaign belonged to Victor Keith Hill. He can’t steal from himself,” Frey answered.

In news to no one, people are complaining about robocalls.

Political robocalls and automated calls from charities, or informational robocalls, such as an airline calling about a flight delay, are exempt from the ban. But those exemptions are being abused, too, with consumers complaining of getting calls that begin as a legitimate call, say from a charity or survey, but then eventually switch to an illegal telemarketing sales pitch.

Robocalls can be highly annoying to consumers because they’re hard to stop. Fraudsters use caller-ID spoofing so that when a person tries to call back the robocaller, they get a disconnected number or something other than the source of the original call.

The best thing people can do when they get an illegal robocall is to hang up. Do not press “1” to speak to a live operator to get off the call list. If you do, the FTC says, it will probably just lead to more robocalls. The caller will know you’re there and willing to answer, and may continue to call.

Your County Commissioner could be costing taxpayers between $180,000 and $500,000 each year to run his or her office, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The data show that even Cobb, with its reputation for austerity, spends about $180,000 a year for each of its five commissioners. Gwinnett commissioners spend about $190,000, while the chairman’s budget is about $296,000. In DeKalb, each commissioner spends about $387,000. Clayton spends $240,000 per commissioner, or $1.2 million. But the actual money that Clayton spends on commissioners is much less. The County Commission’s budget includes the county manager and clerk and those employees. Additionally, Clayton commissioners, who earn $22,000 annually, do not have individual staffs and discretionary budgets.

By comparison, each state senator in Georgia cost taxpayers $200,000 annually to run his office. State senators serve about the same amount of constituents as commissioners and are likewise tasked with one specific job: to plan and approve an annual budget.

“Our phones ring off the hook,” said Fulton Commissioner Liz Hausmann, whose $398,000 budget is the county’s smallest. “The majority of it is constituent issues, problems dealing with county departments.”

Georgia’s “show your papers” provision from HB 87, which allows law enforcement to check immigration status for people who are suspected of committing certain crimes and do not have ID, is on hold as the Eleventh Circuit US Court of Appeals decides whether to re-hear the case.

Forsyth and Cherokee county sheriff’s deputies are among those now putting off training and other planning to enforce the law. It doesn’t make sense to start drafting a policy for it, Forsyth Sheriff Ted Paxton said, when the legal battle is not over.

“We are simply just in a holding pattern,” Paxton said. “Until [the legal case] is resolved, it is very difficult for us to craft any type of policy because there are a lot of unknowns.”

State officials were planning to teach the new law to officers Monday, but they postponed that training after learning the law will remain on hold.

“If I talk about it in class, officers may walk away thinking they can do it,” said Wally Marchant, supervisor of the legal training section at the Georgia Police Academy. “And I don’t want that to happen.”

In the days leading up to the latest tie-up in court, other police agencies indicated they were not ready to begin enforcing the law. Gwinnett police, for example, said this month that they could not say when or how they would apply the law until the county’s Law Department has “reviewed the complete bill after all issues have been resolved from the state.”

“Once that has been done, we will review the final law and determine if any of our current policies and procedures will change,” said Cpl. Edwin Ritter, a police spokesman.

DeKalb police said this month that they were developing a policy on how to apply the law. And now that the law is on hold again? Police spokeswoman Mekka Parish said: “We will continue to monitor legislation and plan accordingly.”

Some police emphasized that doing immigration status checks is optional under the law.

“The provision authorizes, but does not require, the department to investigate the immigration status of individuals who cannot produce adequate identification to prove citizenship,” Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said, “provided probable cause exists that the individual committed a crime.”

In Alabama, a similar measure has caused enough problems that some local jurisdictions are choosing not to enforce it.

[Clanton, Alabama] Chief Brian Stilwell said that measure — which critics call the show-me-your-papers law — has made immigrants afraid to report crimes and burdened his officers with hours-long investigations. The chief was so troubled by the law that he apologized to a young mother who was turned over to immigration authorities after committing a minor traffic infraction in town.

Supporters of the year-old law point to Alabama’s falling unemployment rate as proof it is working and preserving jobs for U.S. citizens, though not everyone agrees there is a correlation. Alabama state Sen. Scott Beason, one of the law’s architects, says it is also aimed at protecting his state’s taxpayer-funded resources and boosting public safety.

While Beason and Stilwell — both Republicans — have staked out different positions on the law, they agree on one thing: Georgia authorities should use caution when they start enforcing a similar measure.

Stilwell, Clanton’s police chief, has concluded the law is unenforceable, partly because state lawmakers this year repealed a provision authorizing police to arrest motorists for driving without a license. He added it sometimes takes hours for federal authorities to respond to his officers’ queries about the immigration status of suspects. Worrying that such prolonged stops — without an arrest — could violate people’s constitutional rights, Stilwell said his officers stopped enforcing the law last summer.

In Tuscaloosa, police officers are releasing suspects when it appears it will take too long to confirm their immigration status and if they have no lawful reason to detain them, said Sgt. Brent Blankley, a police spokesman. Like Clanton police, Tuscaloosa officers have been reaching out to Hispanics since Alabama enacted its law. Blankley indicated those efforts have paid off and that Hispanic victims are continuing to report crimes to police.

My fellow word nerds and I will be in Midtown on Thursday evening for the taping at the Fox Theatre of NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me…” WABE’s Dennis O’Hayer interviewed the show’s host. O’Hayer also interviewed GBI Director Vernon Keenan on the state’s progress in combatting sex trafficking.

State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) is holding a fundraiser tonight with Lt. Governor Casey Cagle in McKoon’s district.

Governor Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens will be featured at a Campaign Rally at Wild Bill’s in Duluth on Thursday night sponsored by the Gwinnett County Republican Party.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for August 30, 2012

27005 is your typical suburban yellow labrador retriever, and she is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. She was given up by her family, which generally means a dog will be one of the first to be euthanized, as there is no waiting period as there is with a stray brought in.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens made his debut on the national political scene last night, sharing a stage with Florida AG Pam Bondi at the Republican National Convention.

Arguably, wearing a pink tie on your national television debut is as courageous as doing it next to a six-foot blonde without the benefit of a step behind the podium. The text of their tag team speech is available here.

Getting fitted for a green jacket is sufficient to give former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice a connection to Georgia politics, and she also gave a major speech last night at the RNC.

Catherine McDonald a leader with Atlanta 912 wrote the excellent notes from the address of Frank Luntz to the Georgia delegation that we excerpted yesterday. Here’s the rest of her write-up, with her permission:

The 5 most powerful sentences you can use to describe what Conservatives/the Republican Party Stand for:

1. We are: Fighting for hardworking taxpayers. (NOT the ‘middle class’, or any class designation)
2. We are Fighting for Economic Freedom. (Main Street!) (NOT ‘defending capitalism’-as most folks connect capitalism with Wall Street)
3. We bring leaders (Romney/Ryan) who will give it you you straight – NO MORE budget tricks, empty promises, or gimmicks.
4. It’s all about being REAL, GENUINE, AND AUTHENTIC. Real jobs, genuine committment to the American idea, with an authentic plan for the budget.
5. Our Leaders are getting OFF the Stage-and into the audience, among the citizens. (think Paul Ryan) (R’s tend to look too much like lawyers, behind the podium, in suits. We must relate better to the common man, still be ‘official’ when required-but respectful of all.

The Differences between how the average voter perceives Obama & Romney right now:
Romney: See him as a great “Fixer” who doesn’t understand peoples’ problems
Obama: See him as understanding peoples’ problems, but having NO idea of how to fix anything.

-Mitt Romney is a man of great Substance, not Style-Obama is a man of ‘style’, with NO substance.

Our challenge & job is to help people understand WHO Mitt Romney is; (below are my personal descriptors:)
-a decent, honest family man,
-a committed problem solver, who cares about YOU,
-a smart, successful business man who knows how to create jobs and wants every American to succeed,
-a man of great faith who loves his country and it’s Founding principles.

Finally-We must me HAPPY WARRIORS- don’t be angry or get angry when you engage!! Think Ronald Reagan!

Speaking of Sam Olens, he received a letter this week from Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), the only member of the Senate Ethics Committee to dissent from the settlement of ethics charges against Senator Don Balfour (R-Snellville or Atlanta). In his letter, McKoon writes, “I am requesting that your office investigate the allegations made in the Amended Complaint of Deborah Dooley regarding violation of certain criminal statutes by Senator Balfour so that this matter may be concluded.”

Out of curiosity, I ran a poll last night in Senate District 30, the district in which State Rep. Bill Hembree is likely to meet former Speaker of the Georgia House Glenn Richardson. The ballot test question included only Hembree, Richardson, and James Camp, omitting candidates who said they are “considering” the race.

Bill Hembree  36.6%
Glenn Richardson  13.1%
James Camp 12.1%

Those results represent several things, in my not-so-humble opinion. First, Hembree has high name recognition, and Richardson probably has high name ID but also high negatives. I didn’t test favorable/unfavorable on the candidates, so that’s just my opinion. The likely-high negatives make it difficult for Richardson to attack Hembree.

Second, I predict that Bill Hembree will win this election without a runoff unless another top-caliber candidate enters the race. There may yet be a second act in Glenn Richardson’s political career, but it is highly unlikely to involve representing the new 30th District in the State Senate next year.

The sample size was 505 respondents for the ballot test, which gives a margin of sampling error of +/- 4.34 points at the 95% confidence level. I’ll be releasing more information through the website and tomorrow’s email.

Ellijay’s Colonel Oscar Poole continued his moment in the national press with a photo in USA Today. According to the accompanying article:

Oscar Poole — the Georgian in the yellow suit (with red epaulets) — was dressed to promote his business, Colonel Poole’s Bar-B-Q. Similarly, Dan Daub, mayor of Tower City, Pa., wore a cowboy hat crafted from a box of his hometown beer, Yuengling.

The Albany Herald spoke with State Rep. Ed Rynders, who is attending the National Convention.

The Georgia delegation was fired up Monday from a surprise visit from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday, one that Rynders said was energizing. “He gave a great speech that got the Georgia delegation going on Sunday,” Rynders said, noting that Priebus referred to encouraging children and grandchildren to work to be successful.

“Sometimes we lose sight of earning success,” he said. “I think that really struck a chord with folks.”

David Oedel, a professor at Mercer Law School, writes his analysis of Miriam Paris’s loss of her Senate seat to fellow Democrat David Lucas.

While Paris put up a nice website for her constituents to visit, Lucas was out talking to the district’s voters face to face. Lucas also charged Paris with being a Republican pawn. That’s an overstatement, but there was enough truth in the charge to stick. Paris’s ears seemed tuned to people such as state Sen. Cecil Staton, Rep. Allen Peake and Erick Erickson in north Macon, Lynn Westmoreland in west Georgia, and plenty of Atlanta gold-domers — all outside the 26th District.

Outsiders fronted by a Republican Atlanta lawyer who formerly worked for Westmoreland issued fancy and “funny” fliers trying to paint Lucas as a lazy Negro, asleep at the political switch. That’s an odd way to spend PAC money in the 26th District, where people understandably resent racial taunting.

Another interesting angle was that Paris supported Macon-Bibb consolidation, which did prevail in July, while Lucas expressed skepticism about some aspects of the particular consolidation plan. It therefore appears probable that a critical number of Bibb voters who approved consolidation also voted for Lucas. If so, that would mean Bibb’s black Democratic voters are more nuanced than some people give them credit for.

The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that Latino voters will comprise 9.8 percent of the November electorate in the states that solidly favor one Presidential candidate, which is the category in which they place Georgia.