Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for January 22, 2013

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

LEASH_Caine

 

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

LEASH_Abel

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Republican Convention Cycle 2013

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 22, 2012


Great Pyrenees are prized dogs for their temperment and their guarding abilities as well as their beautiful white coats. These GP puppies are part of a litter of five that was found alone outside and they are available for adoption from Murray County Animal Shelter. Adoption costs $115 and includes vetting, spay/neuter, heartworm, and rabies treatments. If they are not adopted by pre-dawn Friday they will be euthanized.


Also on the euthanasia list for early Friday morning are these three black lab puppy littermates, who are about seven weeks old and were found abandoned at the side of the road.


This great mama and her three puppies are also available for adoption from Murray County Animal Shelter and will be euthanized before dawn on Friday if not adopted. They like people and other dogs.


This 4.5 year old female hound is also a mom, and she and her puppy (below) are said to be sweet dogs who get along with people or other dogs. Like the others here, they are available for adoption from Murray County and will be euthanized on Friday pre-dawn if not rescued.


This eight-month old puppy came in with her mama (above) and is available for adoption from Murray County Animal Shelter with a literal deadline of pre-dawn Friday.

These dogs and fourteen others are on the list for euthanasia on Friday morning. Unfortunately, this situation is the norm at shelters across Georgia. If you cannot adopt a dog, you might be able to help by transporting a dog from a shelter to a foster home or rescue organization, or by donating to a reputable rescue group. Transportation for each of the above dogs can be arranged to the Atlanta area. If you’re outside Atlanta but not close to Murray County, email me and we’ll try to put you in touch with some folks to help transport them to you.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton debated his two challengers, Democrat Steve Oppenheimer and Libertarian Brad Ploeger, who both tried to out-maneuver the other on the left.

GOP incumbent Chuck Eaton denied opponents’ accusations that he is too cozy with the companies he regulates.

“I’ve never granted Georgia Power Co. any of the rate increases they’ve requested,” he said, adding that he voted only for pared-down rate hikes.

Democrat Steve Oppenheimer said electricity rates had risen 24 percent during Eaton’s six-year term and that residential rates for natural gas were among the highest in the continental United States.

Eaton blamed federal regulations for half the expense of the latest electric rate increase…. (more…)

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 4, 2012

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.

Adoptable Dogs

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

Not shockingly, Cobb County Republicans who gathered for a debate watching party thought that Governor Romney won last night’s debate.

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.

Georgia Democratic Party Chair Mike Berlon disagrees:

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.

Click Here

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.

The Georgia School Boards Association fired back:

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.”

 Maybe Ms. Palm didn’t read the letter, which addresses the First Amendment issue:
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 leadership management.

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.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 1, 2012

In honor of the University of Georgia’s defeat of Tennessee, surely a precursor to our invading them and taking back our water from the Tennessee river, you might consider adopting this English Bulldog, 27718, from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

Or you might take pity on the vanquished and adopt one of the Volunteer state’s symbolic coonhounds. These seven puppies are all available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter beginning Thursday.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

In order to vote in the November 6th General Election, you must be registered by October 9th. Advanced voting begins October 15th, and mail-in ballots are on their way to voters who requested them. To date, more than 76,000 absentee ballots have been requested.

Candidates on the November ballot have a campaign contribution disclosure report due between now and October 5th. Plan early in case the Commission’s website is having problems yet again as the grace period closes.

After Democratic State Representative Rick Crawford announced that if reeelected, he will switch to the Republican Party, Speaker David Ralston made clear that the GOP will continue to back its nominee, Trey Kelley.

“I am fully committed to making sure Trey Kelley is elected to the House. He is an outstanding candidate who is working hard and is consistent,” Ralston said this morning. “While I respect Rick Crawford and appreciate his dilemma, the truth is that the [Democratic] Party didn’t just suddenly become liberal. It has been, is, and will continue to be a party that is far to the left of the great majority of Georgians.”

Also not impressed with Crawford’s claimed change of heart, the Georgia Democratic Party, which will seek Crawford’s removal as their nominee. Georgia Dems met via a teleconference of their leadership, who voted to:

a) Accept Crawford’s resignation from the party. (Crawford has submitted nothing in writing, but had communicated his change of allegiance in conversations with several Democrats;

b) Withdraw its support from Crawford; and

c) Authorize party Chairman Mike Berlon to seek Crawford’s removal from the ballot.

It’s the last item that’s news – or could be. We don’t know that it’s ever been done. Look for Berlon to quickly petition Secretary of State Brian Kemp for Crawford’s dismissal as the Democratic nominee for House District 16 in west Georgia.

Could Democrats replace Crawford? Good question, for which we don’t have an immediate answer. If they can’t, Republican Trey Kelley, a 25-year-old manufacturer’s rep, would be the automatic winner in the race come Nov. 6.

Georgia Republican Party Chair Sue Everhart told Georgia Tipsheet the Crawford will receive no assistance from the GOP.

Trey Kelley is the only Republican that will appear on the ballot in HD 16, and the Georgia Republican Party will proceed accordingly,” Everhart, through a spokesman, told Tipsheet. “We are excited to work with Trey over the next 40 days, and are looking forward to electing a Republican to represent Georgia’s 16th State House District on November 6th.”

What’s got the incumbent Democrat so worried? Maybe the shellacking that Kelley’s about to unload on him. GaPundit’s parent company ran a poll of likely voters in HD 16 over the weekend, and it shows that Kelley leads Crawford by a decisive margin of 61 to 31.5 with a margin of error of +/- 5.2 points.

Last week, I told Winston Jones of the (Carrollton) Times-Georgian newspaper that State Rep. Bill Hembree is the hands-on favorite in the Senate District 30 Special Republican Primary Election held the same day as the General Election.

“I think, realistically, you have to consider Hembree and (former House Speaker Glenn) Richardson to be the major candidates,” said Rehm, who publishes the GaPundit.com political column. “Hembree has a solid career in the state House and is widely thought of very well. Richardson has his supporters and detractors.”

Hembree resigned his House seat this month to campaign for the Senate seat.

“What jumped out at me from the poll was that Hembree has good support,” Rehm said. “It’s not a majority, but a commanding plurality. He has a lot he can brag about accomplishing and he’s not going to have a downside that Richardson has. Unless something shakes up the race in a major way, I’d expect Hembree to win. The question is whether the race has to go through a runoff. There’s a good chance of a runoff and then it’s really a jump ball. Anything can happen in a runoff.”

Rehm noted that 55 percent of the district’s electorate live in Carroll County. But, he said, neither of the Carroll candidates are “real politicians.”

“One of the candidates from Carrollton could make himself a major candidate, but I haven’t seen it yet,” he said.

We also ran a poll this weekend on the Senate District 30 race. We’ll post full details tomorrow on the website and email, but suffice it to say, nothing has happened to cause me to change my prediction of a Hembree win in November. Media writing for deadline can email me for an early copy.

Walter Jones writes that Librarian Libertarian candidates for Public Service Commission may tap into anti-incumbent sentiment this year.

the party has candidates in the only two statewide races, both for the Public Service Commission. In one, Libertarian David Staples is the only alternative to Republican incumbent Stan Wise. In the other, the Libertarians have nominated an openly gay telecommunications consultant, Brad Ploeger, who is drawing new voters to the fold in his bid to best GOP Commissioner Chuck Eaton and Democrat Steve Oppenheimer. For different reasons, both contests offer hope to the Libertarian Party in Georgia, which normally only claims 2 percent to 4 percent of the vote.

“This year, the anti-incumbent sentiment, even among those most closely associated with the majority party, makes both of our candidates in the Public Service Commission races even stronger,” notes Brett Bittner, chairman of the Georgia Libertarian Party. “Ethics issues have dogged both Republican incumbents as primary challengers, the various tea party groups, and ethics watchdogs turned their attention to that area of elected officials’ job performance.”

For many voters, Staples’ main advantage is not being Wise. “While some would prefer to vote for a major-party candidate, there isn’t one in this case. The choice is a vote for someone who looks to be bought and paid for by the industries he is supposed to regulate, or someone who is running on principle,” wrote The Albany Journal in its endorsement of Staples.

The Libertarians are hoping to break the 33 percent won when their nominee John Monds was the only challenger on the 2008 ballot against GOP incumbent Doug Everett. While that left Everett with a landslide, it still gave the Libertarians their best showing ever.

Also working to the party’s advantage, according to [PSC candidate Brad] Ploeger, is the likelihood that GOP nominee Mitt Romney will easily prevail in Georgia’s presidential voting. That frees up Republicans and Democrats with libertarian leanings to vote their preference without fear that doing so will help a candidate they don’t want to win.

Unfortunately, the national campaign has drawn many local parties and activists into support the Romney-Ryan ticket by ignoring state races, instead making phone calls into Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina. This has the potential to risk local races and even force a runoff for Republican Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton, who is seeking reelection, if GOP voters fail to turn out because of perceptions that Georgia is not in play nationally.

Bibb County Superior Court Judge Howard Simms, who was not arrested despite driving with a .083 blood alcohol level, may face charges and his judicial career may be in peril.

If a Bibb County Sheriff’s Office internal investigation confirms the judge’s blood alcohol was 0.083 on the night of Sept. 22, deputies will talk with the county solicitor to determine whether criminal charges will be filed.

Set to be complete by Monday, the results of that investigation will be released to the public after Sheriff Jerry Modena has a chance to review the findings, Chief Deputy David Davis said.

Whether Simms is arrested, his career is likely in the hands of the State Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Simms has notified the commission of the traffic stop and his plan to enter an in-patient alcohol treatment facility, according to a statement he issued Tuesday.

The commission is the only agency with the power to remove judges from office, said commission Chairman John Allen, a Superior Court judge from Columbus.

Allen said he can only remember three judges being removed from office in the past 20 years.

“Very rarely is a judge removed,” he said.

Commission statistics show that 21 judges with a complaint filed against them have resigned from office since 2005.

In May, Governor Nathan Deal removed the entire Miller County School Board. On Friday, Deal named new members to serve out the terms of the removed members.

Cobb County Solicitor General Barry Morgan, a Republican, has changed his mind and will seek reelection in 2014.

The south side of Augusta is the key to Republican success in the Richmond County Sheriff election, according to GOP nominee Freddie Sanders.

“That’s the battleground area of Richmond County,” said Sanders, who is running as a Re­publican in a county still dominated by Democratic politics.

“The south side is more integrated than the west side or the east side,” he said, explaining that he can likely count on strong support in “more Re­publican, more conservative” west Augusta.

His opponent, Richmond County schools Public Safety Lt. Richard Roundtree, will have distinct advantages in east Augusta and the city’s urban center, he said.

Voting in Richmond Coun­ty has a history of falling along racial lines. About 53 percent of registered voters are black and about 37 percent are white, according to Board of Elections statistics. Generally, the majority of blacks tend to support Democratic candidates.

Sanders said he understands that is the pattern, but not necessarily a rule.

“There are some black people who will only vote for a black candidate and there are some white people who will only vote for a white candidate, but those are the fringes,” he said. “Everyone else is in the middle.”

He thinks a large portion of that “middle” can be found in the neighborhoods south of Gordon Highway – primarily commission districts 5, 6 and 8 – where there is a more diverse mix of voters.

The election for Augusta Commission Super District 9, which represents half the city, will see a head-to-head matchup between two former local elected officials and seasoned politicians in the General election.

the Augusta Com­mission Super District 9 election pits former Richmond Coun­ty State Court Solicitor Harold V. Jones against former two-term Com­missioner Marion Wil­liams, probably one of Augusta’s most recognizable politicians.

Williams, 64, got on the commission by beating former Com­missioner Freddie Han­dy by a slim margin in a 1999 runoff for District 2, then beat him again in 2003 for a second term.

Term-limited, Williams set his sights on the Senate Dis­trict 22 seat in 2008 but lost in the Dem­ocratic primary to Ed Tarver, now a U.S. attorney. He lost again in a 2010 effort to unseat District 2 Com­mis­sioner Corey Johnson.

Jones is far from inexperienced in Augusta politics and won nearly 60 percent of votes against Ben “Swain” McElmurray for State Court solicitor in 2004. He had lost an earlier bid for office, a 2002 state House race to Rep. Quincy Murphy..

Now 43 and practicing mostly criminal law with She­pard, Plunkett, Hamilton & Boudreaux, Jones remains active in politics. He had a hand in the voter turnout efforts that led to Richard Round­tree’s upset victory over Scott Peebles in the Democratic primary runoff for sheriff.

Unopposed for a second term as solicitor in 2008, Jones resigned the next year to run for state Senate against Hardie Davis. Davis won District 22, boosted by success in many white precincts, but Jones outpolled him in the 71 percent black District 9 portion of the Senate district by 1,132 votes.

The DeKalb County Republican Party invites you to “An Evening with Chris Boedeker,” the GOP nominee for State House District 81, currently held by Democrat Scott Holcomb. The reception will be held on Thursday, October 4th from 6 to 7:30 PM at DeKalb GOP HQ, located at 3583 Chamblee-Tucker Road, Atlanta, GA 30341. If you are attending, please R.s.v.p. to Linda Smith at 770-451-4174.

Coastal Georgia can look forward to a new $100 million resort that includes an adventure park, and 800 new jobs, if a developer is successful in plans for 575 acres near Kingsland, Georgia.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 17, 2012

This young female English Setter mix might be a great bird dog. She might also be a couch potato. Either way, she’s available for adoption today from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. Her ID is 26571 and she is located in pen 139.

This puppy is described as a baby lab, but I’ve never seen a lab with markings like those. She is a large, playful and friendly puppy with ID #26454 and is in pen 214, waiting at Gwinnett County Animal Shelter for her new home and family.

I’d already compiled this morning’s featured dogs when I saw this photo and couldn’t resist. She is a young Siberian Husky available for adoption today from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. Large and friendly, she was surrendered by her owner and does not like cats.

GPB has the first of a three-part series of advice and stories about adopting dogs.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former State Rep. Johnny Floyd of Cordele, who switched parties to become a Republican in 2006, has been elected Chairman of the Georgia Department of Transportation Board. Former State Rep. Jay Shaw was elected Vice Chair.

State Senator Don Balfour settled a complaint by the Senate Ethics Committee alleging the Rules Committee Chairman submitted inaccurate reimbursement claims.

The committee concluded that “Sen. Balfour failed to maintain accurate records of his travel and consequently submitted inaccurate vouchers to the Legislative Fiscal Office,” according to its report, which was released late Thursday afternoon.

Veteran lawmakers said it was the first time the Senate Ethics Committee voted to punish one of the chamber’s members.

Balfour, chairman of the Rules Committee, was accused of billing the state for mileage while out of town on lobbyist-funded trips, and for failing to create a subcommittee to audit all senators’ reimbursement vouchers.

On Thursday, Balfour acknowledged making “some inadvertent mistakes and I’ve said that all along” and admitted he had not created an audit subcommittee — but neither had previous chairmen. He did not speak to reporters after the report was released.

Balfour has subsequently amended his reimbursements and will repay $350 to the state plus a $5000 fine. His chairmanship presumably will be subject to the Committee on Assignments.

Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) was not amused.

“While I strongly agree with the Committee’s determination of guilt, I disagree with the penalty, which will not deter future serious breaches of Georgia law and is not as strong as penalties imposed when similar offenses have been committed in the past.”

“I will be preparing a minority report in the days to come which I will forward on to appropriate parties for consideration which will address these matters in much greater detail. Suffice it to say that the action taken today, in my opinion, further undermines public confidence in state government and reinforces the anything goes culture at the Capitol.”

Also not amused? Debbie Dooley, who I would argue is the most influential woman in Georgia politics at the moment.

Dooley called the penalties “a slap on the wrist” agreed to in a “backroom deal.”

“The attitude of the voters and the grass roots is that the Senate chamber is a good old boy network that actually takes care of their own and covers for their own,” she said.

The committee, Dooley said, is “rubber-stamping unethical behavior from Sen. Balfour.”

Dooley vowed to press Attorney General Sam Olens and Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard to investigate Balfour’s actions.

She said her organization also will pressure Senate leaders to strip Balfour of his committee chairmanship. The Rules Committee decides which bills make it to the Senate floor, and as chairman, Balfour has great power to influence those decisions.

Richmond County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Scott Peebles and County School System Public Safety Lt. Richard Roundtree will meet in the runoff for Sheriff on Tuesday.

Manure has become the metaphor of choice in the 12th Congressional District Republican Primary Runoff between State Rep. Lee Anderson and Rick Allen. Lee Anderson hit the air with an ad accusing Rick Allen of bringing out the manure spreader and visuals of Rick Allen getting what is presumably manure flung on his face.

Now, the Augusta Chronicle suggests that Anderson is mailing out the manure himself.

Mud – or in Grovetown state Rep. Lee Anderson’s case – manure – continues to fly in the 12th Congressional District race as Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff between Anderson and Augusta businessman Rick W. Allen grows closer.

A mailer from Lee Anderson for Congress goes too far in accusing Allen of contributing money to incumbent Democrat John Barrow, said Allen’s campaign manager, Scott Paradise.

“It’s a flat-out lie,” Paradise said. “This piece is a last-minute piece, and maybe they thought ‘let’s send it out and hope we don’t get caught.’ But they slipped up.”

I’ve got to wonder what the robocalls sound like in that campaign.

Also going negative in the runoff are State Senator Miriam Paris and her opponent David Lucas.

During a news conference Thursday, Lucas addressed a controversial campaign mailer that featured an unflattering picture of the former state representative who appears to be yawning. The mailer goes onto to say:

“We don’t need a sleeping senator. David Lucas falls asleep on the job. And when he wakes up, he’s a nightmare. David Lucas slept while thousands of jobs left Middle Georgia.”

Now Lucas is firing back. He’s says if anyone has been sleeping on the job it is Paris.

“The senator elect was asleep on the job when they did the consolidation bill that she could not explain,” Lucas said.

The ad was paid for by Georgia Forward, a group that describes itself as independent and non-partisan. Lucas believes that ad was paid for by republicans. He feels that negative campaigning is taking over the race but says he’s not the one behind it.

Both candidates deny negative campaigning.

Murray County Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran has resigned under investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission for pre-signing blank arrest warrants for police officers.

The commission posted on Thursday Cochran’s resignation letter, a letter from Gov. Nathan Deal accepting his resignation and a copy of a consent order signed by Cochran agreeing to resign and to not seek any other elected or appointed judicial office.

A report accompanying those documents, also signed by Cochran, says the commission was investigating whether Cochran “allowed the prestige of his office to advance his private interests” and whether he “pre-signed blank arrest warrants for completion by law enforcement officers while he was absent from the office.”

Cochran was also recently accused of making advances toward a woman before him on methamphetamine charges.

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A political consulting firm called “Pirouette Companies” continues to cause controversy in the now-settled Fulton County election for State Court Judge.

An ethics complaint filed against Fulton Magistrate Judge Melynee Leftridge in the days before the July 31 primary will be investigated by the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission to determine if any laws were violated.

The complaint was filed by Charlie Stadtlander, a gay voter. Leftridge faced off against open lesbian Jane Morrison in the non-partisan campaign for the open seat of Fulton State Judge. Morrison won with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Statdlander accused Leftridge in his complaint of an “apparent elaborate scheme to funnel some $18,500 to a company responsible for maintaining a websitewww.pirouettesexy.com” that features “pictures of scantly clad women.”

But here’s where the Pirouette Companies saga turns into more than just a remnant from a campaign that’s now finished:

Mitzi Bickers, a longtime political operative, said she consults for Piroutte Companies and started working for the company earlier this year.

The company has a youth program that includes teaching dance to young people, but the money Leftridge paid was to Piroutte Companies and not to a dance company, Bickers said.

“We have not done anything unethical,” she said.

Bickers, who is gay, took an unpaid leave of absence from working for Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration in May to work for Pirouette. Records show that Pirouette was paid more than $115,000 by Citizens for Transportation Mobility, which supported TSPLOST. Reed was a strong outspoken supporter of TSPLOST.

“I took an unpaid leave of absence so there would not be any conflict of interest with TSPLOST,” Bickers said.

Ends & Pieces

Atlantan Cassie Mitchell is headed to London to compete in the Paralympics in three wheelchair sports, the 100m and 200m sprint and the discus. I met Cassie when I volunteered at Shepherd Spinal Center with the Quad Rugby Program. She’s an amazing athlete and holds a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Georgia Tech, where she works.

Three members of the US Army marksmanship team who competed in the London Olympics have returned to Fort Benning where they are teaching junior rifle camp.

The Marksmanship Unit sent seven soldiers to the competition at the Royal Artillery Barracks, but Sgt. Vincent Hancock was the only one to strike gold in men’s skeet shooting. He’s on leave preparing for a big welcome home Saturday in Eatonton, Ga.

Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson, the first active-duty soldier to ever qualify for a Paralympics, is the only member of the Marksmanship Unit left to compete in London. Olson, who lost his right leg after he was wounded in Iraq in 2003, will compete in the 10-meter air rifle Sept. 1 and the mixed 50-meter prone rifle Sept. 4.

As an instructor, [Sgt. 1st Class Eric] Uptagrafft said he’s teaching the 15-17-year-old shooters the basic fundamentals of firing a small bore .22-caliber rifle at a target less than the size of a dime 50 meters away.

“All the things you use to get to the Olympics are the things these kids are going to use hopefully to get there in eight or nine years,” he said.

Students had to apply to earn a spot at the five-day camp. Michael Garner, 16, of Celina, Texas, said it’s exciting to get help from world-class shooters and Olympians.

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