Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for December 5, 2012

Vernon is a good-looking black lab who loves swimming and people, playing fetch, and gets along with other dogs. He is available for adoption from Dixie Dog Rescue in Vidalia, Georgia.

 

These three dogs are still available for adoption from the Murray County Animal Shelter in Chatsworth, Georgia and are due to be euthanized Friday morning in the pre-dawn hours unless a rescue commitment is made. Email [email protected] or call 770-441-0329 if you’re interested in helping one of these souls. Transportation is available.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

So, I was wrong in my prediction that Bill Hembree would win the Republican Primary Runoff in Senate District 30. Mike Dugan will move forward to face Librarian Libertarian James Camp in the January 8, 2013 election. Hembree carried Paulding County with 65% and his home county Douglas with more than 80%, but the two counties combined for only 37.7% of votes cast in the runoff. Dugan carried Carroll County, where he lives, by more than 3-to-1 and with Carroll accounting for 63.3% of the vote, it was enough to bring him in with a total margin of 750 votes.

“I’m humbled and proud,” Dugan said. “I’m not surprised that we won, but I am surprised with how well we did and I’m thankful for that. I’m going to take tomorrow off, with Christmas coming, and catch up on a bunch of ‘honey do’s,’ then I’m going to start getting ready for Jan. 8. Anybody who thinks this race is done is just kidding themselves.”

It was a disappointing loss for Hembree, who came within 2 percentage points of winning the race outright in the Nov. 6 voting. He had 48.4 percent of the vote then, while Dugan got only 24.3 percent to win a spot on the runoff ballot. But more than 70 percent of the voters turned out then, with the presidential race and several state and local contests on the ballot.

The take-away from this is that if you’re a candidate, avoid December runoffs like you would a land war in Asia. As I told the Times-Georgian, they’re unpredictable and custom-made for upsets.

Rehm cited numerous examples of candidates who trailed in general election voting only to win a runoff, including Mike Crane’s win over Duke Blackburn in the November 2011 Senate District 28 race.

Add to that Senator John Wilkinson’s win in November 2011 and Chuck Eaton’s win from behind in December 2006, and the pattern is that reversals can and do occur in late-year runoff elections.

Senator Chip Rogers resigned from the State Senate effective today. Governor Deal has ten days to call a special election to fill the vacancy, and the special election must be held at least thirty days later and no more than sixty days after the Governor calls for the election. This would allow a Special Election to fill Rogers’ seat on January 15, 2013, the day after the General Assembly convenes. Even with the possibility of a runoff election, the early date would allow a new Senator to participate in much of the 2013 Session.

Early speculation is that Brandon Beach will run, having won 12,000 votes against Rogers in the General Primary in July. Also mentioned is State Rep. Sean Jerguson, whose Cherokee County residence may be helpful in a district where Cherokee County contributed 81% of the 2012 GOP Primary.

If Jerguson runs for Senate, political consultant Brian Laurens might run for Jerguson’s seat. Scot Turner, who carried 42% of the GOP Primary against Jerguson would also be a likely candidate. The Cherokee County legislative delegation will meet with local officials tomorrow to discuss priorities for the 2013 Session, followed by a Town Hall meeting for Cherokee residents at 6:30 PM. I expect there will be some talk of the Senate race.

Dennis O’Hayer at WABE has a nearly 16 minute interview with Chip Rogers.

J. Max Davis will take office as the first Mayor of the City of Brookhaven, winning nearly 66% over Democrat Sandy Murray. Rebecca Chase Williams won the District One city council seat, with almost 66% of the vote.

Both incumbent members of the Clayton County Board of Education were defeated last night.

With 15 of the 16 precincts reported, District 2 challenger Mark Christmas appeared to have handily defeated incumbent Wanda Smith, while voters in District 7 appeared to have selected Judy Johnson over incumbent Trinia Garrett.

The two districts have a combined 30,000 registered voters. But fewer than 600 residents cast votes Tuesday. The school board race was Clayton’s only election Tuesday. The vote continues a movement of change that began this summer when the county ousted its sheriff and two longtime commissioners.

Democrat Frederick Ward won Putnam County Commission District 1 by an eight-vote margin.

Democrat Wayne Hall won a seat on the Jeff Davis County Commission.

In Augusta City Commission District 1, William Fennoy beat incumbent Matt Aitken, reversing the runoff election three years ago.

Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal will light the tree at the Georgia State Capitol today at 11 AM in the rotunda. Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black will introduce the Governor.

I’ll be well-behaved at the Capitol today, as the Georgia State Troopers there will be carrying assault rifles. (Actually, I suspect they won’t carry them routinely but will have them available.)

Governor Deal says that renewing the hospital bed tax or Medicaid assessment fee is vital to healthcare in Georgia.

“Without it, we’re going to be hard-pressed to maintain the quality of care and to provide the payments to the provider community that we’d like to see.”

Passed in 2010, the provider fee allows the state to collect 1.45 percent of net patient revenue from hospitals. It raises more than $200 million annually for the state Medicaid program, and helps draw down nearly $600 million more in matching funds from the federal government.

The fee is set to expire next year, unless lawmakers decide to renew it.

Deal says allowing the tax to expire would wreak havoc on the state budget.

“I support something that is going to provide for the filling of that gap in our  budget and the provider fee seems like the most logical way to do that.”

Deal says a unified front among hospitals will help avoid another ugly episode at the state Capitol.

“I certainly hope the hospital community – if they can come together on an agreement and recognize the importance of it – they’re the ones that are going to be making those payments. We would hope that would mitigate some of that conflict,” said Deal.

Regardless of the provider fee, the state Medicaid program is already financially challenged. It’s facing a deficit of more than $300 million heading into next year.

AllNews 106.7 is reporting that Fulton County may hire Republican lobbyists in order to have more effective communications with the General Assembly. Fulton County Chairman John Eaves says he thinks the Commission can be more effective by personally lobbying legislators. This is the same John Eaves whose radio ad said Republicans would turn back the clock on civil rights and evoked police dogs and water hoses. Good luck with that.

The Atlanta City Council has adopted a measure endorsing gay marriage by an 11-2 vote.

The Canton Tea Party has received a couple of nastygrams from the Georgia Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

Carolyn Cosby, chairwoman of the Canton Tea Party, confirmed Monday she has received an order from The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission regarding ethics charges made against the Canton Tea Party and the Citizens Review and Recommendations Committee, stemming from alleged actions taken during the recent campaign season.

Complaints 2012-0032 and 2012-0033 were filed by Post 3 Commissioner Karen Bosch in June. Cosby said Monday the correspondence listed both complaints and said “respond in 15 days or pay $12,000 in 30 days.” However, Cosby said she received notice of additional complaints filed by an apparently unidentified complainant.

Ethics commission spokesperson Holly LaBerge said Monday that, in general, if a case being investigated by Ethics is not credible, it would be dismissed.

“The issuance of a compliance or consent order means there is a violation of some sort that has occurred,” she said, noting that proceedings regarding the complaints are not open record until a final resolution is made.

“The consent order can be signed by all parties or can go to hearing if the person objects to it,” she added.

In the complaints regarding the two groups led by Cosby, Bosch charges the groups were raising money to mount campaigns to influence votes for and against candidates.

To the complaint regarding the citizens’ committee, Bosch attached a flier that has Cosby’s contact number at the bottom. The flyer promoted Post 2 candidate Channing Ruskell as a “Tea Party Favorite” and decries the actions of incumbent Post 2 Commissioner Jim Hubbard. To the complaint on the Canton Tea Party Patriots, Bosch attached documentation from Hubbard, who attended a meeting of the organization. He said Cosby, would only let “favorites” address the audience and asked those in attendance to consider donating to a “special fund for the ‘favorites’ candidates.”

Cosby said Tuesday the complaints charge her of opposing the Homestead Option Sales Tax Referendum at a tea party meeting held in October. She said she was personally opposed to the HOST.

Besse Cooper, the Georgian who was the oldest woman in the world, died yesterday.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for December 4, 2012

Donner is a 1-2 year old boxer mix male who is good with people, dogs, and appears to not chase cats. He is available for adoption from the Walton County Animal Shelter.

Brandie is a 4-year old, 29# low-rider who’s about the size of a beagle. An owner turn-in, she’s said to be good with kids and other dogs. She’s available today from the Walton County Animal Shelter.
28845 is a pibble mix puppywho is friendly and playful. She and a number of other puppies, dogs and cats, is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter for the discounted adoption fee of $30.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

For a small number of voters across the state, today is Yet Another Election Day. I’ll be heading across the street shortly after publication this morning to vote in the runoff election for Mayor and City Council of the City of Brookhaven.

The first vote I will cast will be for J. Max Davis for Mayor. J. Max is a conservative who will help ensure that the City of Brookhaven fulfills its promise of lower taxes and better services. He led the group that worked for incorporation and is the best choice today. Davis is endorsed by State Rep. Mike Jacobs and State Senator Fran Millar.

His opponent, Sandy Murray, ran against State Rep. Mike Jacobs, who sponsored the incorporation legislation, and qualified to run against him this year before dropping out of that race and entering the race for Mayor. Murray opposed incorporation and worked to defeat the measure. She is supported by the Democratic Party of Georgia, with DPG Political Director Rashad Richey sending a mass email yesterday saying, “Sandy Murray is a solid Democrat running for Mayor of Brookhaven who will work with progressives….”

If I lived in her district, I would be voting today for Rebecca Chase Williams for District 1 City Council.

Senate District 30 voters will choose between State Rep. Bill Hembree and Mike Dugan in today’s runoff election, leading to the General Special Election on January 8, 2013.

Turnout could be light, if advance voting figures are any indication. Only 922 voters cast early ballots in Carroll County, about 1.8 percent of the 52,412 eligible voters.

Voters in Augusta City Commission District 1 will return to the polls today in a runoff election between Commissioner Matt Ait­ken and challenger Bill Fennoy. Aitken was first elected three years ago in a runoff against Fennoy.

Clayton County voters will fill two seats on the county board of education today. Clayton County is currently under investigation by SACS for board in-fighting.

District 2 incumbent Trinia Garrett will face Judy Johnson, and District 7 incumbent Wanda Smith will face Mark Christmas.

Currently, there are 18,600 registered voters in School Board District 2 and 13,775 in School Board District 7.

Early voting for the Dec. 4 election closed Friday, but the Elections and Registration Office has only received 9 in-person voters and 62 mailed absentee ballots.

“Observing the turn out for early voting, I do not anticipate a high volume of voters to turn out Tuesday,” said Elections Director Annie Bright.

Last week the State Elections Board fined Blackshear City Council Member David Broady $5500 for illegally handling 55 absentee votes in 2009 during his reelection campaign.

The civil fine amounts to $100 for each absentee vote the Georgia Secretary of State’s office investigation said Broady handled and delivered to the Blackshear post office just prior to the Dec. 1, 2009 city council District 4 runoff election.

Broady was accused of 55 felony counts of unlawful possession of absentee ballots. State law says it is illegal for anyone other than a person with legal authority to possess others’ ballots – such as an official overseeing an election – outside of the polling place.

State election officials launched a probe in January, 2011 following a complaint regarding the 2009 runoff between District 4 incumbent Broady and challenger Bernice Blakely Bowles. The State Election Board forwarded the case to the Attorney General’s office after a presentation in February this year after finding probable cause to proceed.

The absentee ballots allegedly handled by Broady were counted in the runoff election, in which Broady defeated Bowles 90-57.

In Troup County, there will be a rare runoff election for Sheriff as an independent candidate forced Democrat Ruben Hairston and Republican James Woodruff into a second round of voting. Hairston played professional football and was endorsed by the outgoing Republican sheriff.

Wilcox County also has a runoff election for Sheriff with Republican Mike Martin and Democrat Lonnie Curry on the ballot today.

McIntosh County hosts a runoff election for board of education between Republican Bonnie Caldwell and Democrat Vicky Persons after an independent ran in the general election.

Putnam County hosts a runoff election for District 1 County Commissioner with Republican Kelvin Irvin and Democrat Fred Ward making the cut.

Early voting in the special election runoff for the District 1 county commission seat ended Friday with a total of 317 ballots cast, according to the BER office. In addition, 62 absentee ballots had been returned by 5 p.m. Monday.

The Taylor County Commission District 4 seat is up for grabs today in a runoff election between incumbent Commissioner Jerry Albritton and challenger Russell Pounds, who tied in the general election with 343 votes each.

Brunswick sees a runoff for the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission between Clifford Adams and Sandy Dean after a ten-candidate free-for-all general election.


Lobbyists are reminded that registration is due soon and the online renewal system will be available from December 17, 2012 through January 9, 2013. At least in theory. The computer system at the Commission appears to be down this morning. Consider yourselves warned.

Governor Nathan Deal named Senators Rick Jeffares and Charlie Bethel as Administration Floor Leaders, who join Senator Bill Jackson.

Deal also appointed two judges in the Bell-Forsyth Judicial Circuit.

Deal announced Monday that he tapped State Court Judge Philip C. Smith, 57, to the superior court. He then selected Forsyth Solicitor-General Leslie Abernathy, 45, to fill Smith’s seat on the state court.

Deal’s Judicial Nominating Commission had put both Smith and Abernathy on the short list for the superior court seat. The vacancy created by Smith’s promotion to the superior court was not advertised and did not go through the usual JNC vetting process, although previous governors have made similar moves.

The Atlanta City Council voted themselves pay raises yesterday, going from $39,000 to more than $60,000 and raising the Mayor’s pay from $147k to $184k per year. Because they deserve it.

The raises were pushed by an independent review committee that looked into compensation for Atlanta’s elected officials.  Supporters say bigger salaries would bring better candidates, but some union officials think the money would be better spent on those supplying city services.  Taxpayer watchdogs also wonder about the wisdom of giving elected officials big raises.

While most council members chose to remain silent on the issue, veteran council member Cleta Winslow defended her vote for the pay raise.

“There have been a lot media that’s been running around today — I’m not afraid of the media. I believe that we deserve the raise and I’m just going to say it,” Winslow said after listening to numerous speakers question the timing and amount of the proposed salary hike.

Fulton County will consider on Wednesday hiring Arnall Golden Gregory to lobby the General Assembly at a cost of more than $260,000.

After months of deadlock over how to handle the upcoming state Legislative session, on Wednesday the Fulton County Commission will consider hiring an outside lobbying firm at a cost of $260,416. Arnall Golden Gregory scored the best out of three bidders for the state- and federal-level lobbying job. Rusty Paul, a former Republican state senator and leader of the Georgia GOP, is a senior policy advisor at the law firm and co-chairs its government affairs team.

Paul was last seen on Fox5Atlanta defending the exorbitant lunch and flower bills of the Development Authority of Fulton County.

WABE asks “Who steals 20,000 bags of dog food,” after a theft of more than $30,000 worth of kibble from a warehouse. This guy, that’s who.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 29, 2012

This sweet brown dog is a mother at ten months of age, and she and her puppies are destined to be euthanized tomorrow morning if no one steps up to adopt or foster. They are available for adoption immediately and transportation can be arranged. These dogs can be adopted or fostered individually and any not saved by 2 AM Friday will be euthanized.

This black lab mix male is about ten months old and has the beginning of mange, but it’s easily treated. Somebody offered to rescue him but has backed out. He must be rescued before 2 AM.

There are a half-dozen other dogs in dire need before Thursday. Transportation for any of these dogs to the Atlanta area is available for free and we have sponsors who are willing to pay the adoption fee for any of these dogs. Email me if you’re interested in adopting and have any questions.

To save one of these souls, here is the contact information:

Lisa Hester, volunteer
[email protected]
[email protected]

Megan706-260-5251 (daytime Tu,Th,F)(TEXT or call)
706-695-8003
[email protected]

Pauline Davis
[email protected]
706-463-2194, TEXT messages only

If you are not able to save a dog at this time, you also may make a donation on behalf of one of the dogs or for a “hard to place” dog. To make a donation, simply go to www.paypal.com, click on the “send money” tab on the home page and enter the shelter acct, [email protected]. In the subject line, indicate this is a donation for the (brief descrip and/or ID # of animal or “hard to place dog”). IMPORTANT: Be sure to designate the payment as a “gift” or PayPal will take part of it.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The State Elections Board dismissed seven charges against the Fulton County Board of Elections in which voters did not receive mail-in ballots they requested. The SEB sent official reprimands and instructions for remedial actions on two charges.

“It’s good to hear these cases, because it’s building up for what’s to come,” [Secretary of State Brian] Kemp said after the meeting, referring to more than 100 complaints from this year’s presidential election, such as poll workers wrongly steering some voters to provisional ballots and denying those ballots to others.

The winning PowerBall numbers drawn yesterday were 5, 16, 22, 23, 29 and Powerball of 6. Even if the State of Georgia won the $550 million top prize, we still probably wouldn’t be able to afford an extra $2.5 billion over the next ten years in order to extend benefits to more Georgians.

“We are having a difficult time meeting our obligations for Medicaid as it is,” said [Governor Nathan] Deal. “I do not foresee a situation in which the state would have another 2, 3, or 4 billion dollars over the next ten years to dedicate to that purpose.”

Medicaid is the joint federal-state health program for the poor. The federal government has promised to cover the full cost of the expansion for the first three years, and about 90 percent thereafter.

Health policy analyst Tim Sweeney of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute said the expansion is a major opportunity for the state.

“If you look at in context, it’s about a one or two percent increase in total state spending which is definitely affordable in the long run considering the dramatic benefits we get from it,” said Sweeney.

How does the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute fail to understand that there is no such thing as “free money from the federal government”?

Senator Jack Murphy has endorsed allowing state voters to decide whether to allow Pari-mutuel betting on horse races. I personally oppose it despite the fact that I love horses and I love racing in almost any form. The problem is the disjunction between the romantic notion of horse-racing as a high-class sport undertaken in resort-like conditions.

Foxfield aside, commercial horse racing facilities become squalid and filled with desperate people quickly. They also create a large number of people who are dependent upon commercial gambling for their livelihood, which makes the next step into casino gambling all but inevitable, because most racetracks are not commercially-viable without some form of on-premises casino or electronic gaming machines.

State Representative-elect Michael Caldwell (R) is being lauded for returning excess campaign contributions on a pro rata basis.

Caldwell told the Tribune Wednesday he returned 13.8 percent of each donor’s contributions, an amount corresponding with his leftover funds after winning the House seat against Democrat Lillian Burnaman in November’s general election.

“We wrote the checks on Nov. 7, the day after the election ended, and they were mailed last week,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell’s website shows a balance of $444, money contributors told him to keep for his next campaign after he mailed out the checks.

“I’m not going to make that decision for them. That has to be up to them,” Caldwell said.

During his campaign, Caldwell did not accept money from lobbyists or out-of-state donors and recorded all monetary and in-kind contributions.

“The state requires that you disclose contributions of more than $100, but we did every penny. I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Good news in education: more students are passing the writing test that is required for high school graduation.

93% of students passed the exam this year, up from 91% last year. State education officials started phasing out the high school graduation test last year. But they kept the writing test.

A higher percentage of African-American and Latino students passed the test this year, narrowing the achievement gap with white students. Cardoza says that’s significant.

“Closing that gap is very important because all students are going to go on from high school into either a career or on to college,” [Dept. of Ed. Spokesperson Matt] Cardoza says, “So, we have to make sure that all of those students are at that proficiency level.”

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia released a study showing that 100,000 Georgians depend on MARTA to get to work, a threefold increase over the past five years.

“If MARTA didn’t exist, those 100,000 jobs and the 80,000 they support would likely go away,” said Wes Clarke, one of the UGA researchers who prepared the study onMARTA’s economic role. “It shows the magnitude of the impact of being able to get people to jobs by way of a transit system.”

The availability of public transit has played a key role in attracting the 123, 515 jobs around the Perimeter Center in DeKalb County, said Yvonne Williams, president of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts. The CIDs have four rail stations in the area serving medical centers, Perimeter Mall and office parks.

“Most of the major corporations that are here … have chosen the perimeter market for the assets of transit,” she said. “It draws employees from across the region and your high-profile corporations care about that employee footprint. We see it as a major competitive factor.”

I myself am a frequent MARTA rider, especially during the legislative session when it’s simply quicker many mornings than driving 4 miles through Atlanta traffic. Pro-tip for MARTA management: I’d probably spend three to five dollars a day on fancy coffee in the station if you sold it to me. And you could probably extract a couple extra bucks a week by opening pay toilets at the half-way point.

On Tuesday, some Paulding, Douglas and Carroll County voters will go to the polls to vote in the runoff in Senate District 30 between Bill Hembree and Mike Dugan. There will also be a special election between the winner *cough*Hembree*cough*  and a Librarian Libertarian named James Camp on January 8, 2013.

Talk about a 2014 challenge to United States Senator Saxby Chambliss have picked up.

A combination of factors has encouraged some Republicans to openly weigh a challenge. Chambliss has long faced criticism from tea party activists and other hardcore conservatives who dislike his role on the bipartisan Gang of Six, which backed a plan to reduce deficits by changing entitlement programs, make spending cuts and raising tax revenue.

“I don’t think it’s the taxes,” said Debbie Dooley, a Chambliss critic and co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party. “It’s based on that people want a fighter, they don’t want someone to acquiesce to the left.”

Chambliss’ longtime political consultant, Tom Perdue, said several members of Congress have said in the last few months that they would run for Chambliss’ seat if he did not seek re-election. And others indicated they might challenge the incumbent in a primary. Still others, Perdue said, are floating their names as a way of raising campaign cash and don’t intend to mount a real challenge.

Perdue faulted those who criticize Chambliss for working with Democrats.

“Now all of the sudden you’ve got some people, which is certainly their right — they do not think he should be working with Democrats,” Perdue said. “Well, it’s kind of hard to get anything done in Congress if both parties don’t work together.”

Congressman Dr. Tom Price diagnosed talk of him challenging Chambliss as premature speculation.

The Savannah Chamber of Commerce unveiled its 2013 legislative agenda at an “Eggs and Issues” breakfast yesterday.

Securing harbor deepening funds again topped the list.

But other topics mentioned at the Savannah Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs and Issues breakfast also would require state dollars.

Tybee Island State Representative Ben Watson wants more sand on Tybee beach.

“Tybee beach re-nourishment not only affects the tourism in the Savannah beaches or on Tybee Island,” Watson says. “But it also affects the City of Savannah, our region here and the whole state of Georgia.”

Chamber Chairman Bill Shira said he’d like lawmakers to extend a tax break benefiting jet-maker Gulfstream.

“What this tax exemption does is allow Gulfstream to be more competetive,” Shira says. “What this legislative agenda is meant to do is to extend these benefits for Gulfstream into the future so that we can remain competitive.”

Speaking of Savannah, the city is ranked as the 38th fastest-growing major metropolitan area in the nation.

Over the next five years, Savannah’s population is projected to grow 5 percent, 6,700 new households in total, at an annual rate of 1 percent.

That comes as no surprise to Bill Hubbard, president and CEO of the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce. In fact, he can sum up the area’s growing popularity in two words: baby boomers.

“Savannah’s ability to attract retirees is the fundamental piece that has driven our growth. Most baby boomers have weathered the recession with at least some of their wealth intact and, as they look to retirement, they are realizing that our area is a great place to live,” he said.

“Nearly 80 percent of the U.S. population lives within an hour of the coastline, and this is the most affordable coastline between Myrtle Beach and Jacksonville,” he said, adding that it doesn’t hurt that Savannah is a tourist magnet.

Kia Motors will invest more than $1 billion dollars in its West Point, Georgia operations.

A memorandum of understanding spells out a plan for Kia Motors Manufacturing America to invest $1.6 billion over the next 16 years for expanding its model offerings, including additional tools, equipment and possible building expansions. Kia is asking the Troup County Development Authority to issue $1 billion in bonds and the West Point Development Authority to issue $600 million in bonds for the improvements, and would pay the county development authority $400,000 in compensation and West Point Development Authority up to $650,000.

Governor Nathan Deal lauded the investment:

“Kia has an exceptional track record of growth in our state,” said Deal. “The wave of economic impact created by Kia’s presence in Georgia goes far beyond the 10,000-plus jobs the company and its suppliers have created and will underpin the region’s economy for generations to come. Kia’s continued commitment to our state moves us closer to making Georgia the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business.”

Being from Gwinnett County, I always understood that developers were supposed to send flowers and wine-and-dine government officials, but the Fulton County Development Authority thinks it works the other way. Take a minute to watch the video from Fox5Atlanta about $1100 monthly lunches and absorb the fact that it’s a Republican chairman and mouthpiece telling you that it never occurred to them to ask the price of the free government-provided lobster bisque that magically appeared at their monthly meetings.

More than two-thirds of the applications for disadvantaged business status under a Georgia DOT program included incorrect calculations, according to an audit of the program.

The findings of the audit raise questions about the disadvantaged business certification process GDOT had been using, but it’s not clear how many of the applicants reviewed went on to win contracts.

The “disadvantaged business enterprise” certifications give firms special consideration, since agencies set goals to award a certain percentage of contracts to disadvantaged firms.

The performance review completed earlier this year found GDOT’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity did not accurately calculate business owners’ personal net worth in 27 of the 40 applications reviewed for the audit. The errors included omissions of ownership interest in other companies or the fair market value of stocks and bonds, according to the audit. In some cases, more information would be needed to make a determination.

What’s more, GDOT increased its cap on personal net worth from $750,000 to $1.32 million for airport concessions disadvantaged business enterprise certifications, even before the federal government issued its final rule making the change. The federal change has since been finalized.

The headline of the week comes from the Marietta Daily Journal for this gem: “Speeders, chickens get little love from council members”.

MARIETTA — Speeders and chickens got little support during the Marietta City Council’s committee meetings Monday.

The public safety committee discussed conducting a “Slow Down Marietta Week” after chairman Councilman Anthony Coleman called one street “the Kennestone 500.”

“We’ve been doing some ticketing,” Coleman said about 60 tickets issued in a recent three-day period. “I don’t think that’s (the police department’s) first option, to go back to writing tickets, but it does get people’s attention. I want a proactive approach.”

Coleman said speeders create a secondary public safety problem.

“People are not following the limit and they’re tailgating drivers going the speed limit. It causes a lot of tension,” he said.

Backyard chickens failed to garner support from the judicial and legislative committee, chaired by Councilman Phil Goldstein.

Backyard chicken advocate Kristen Picken, a Marietta resident, spoke to the Council as she did at its Oct. 10 regular meeting.

“I work with a group that wants to get the law changed in the city of Marietta and the county,” she said about the Backyard Chickens Alliance of Cobb County.To

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 28, 2012

The Murray County Animal Shelter in Chatsworth, Georgia has impending deadlines on Thursday before dawn for a number of dogs.

This is a one-and-a-half year old Lab boy who is great with other dogs and with people, available from the Murray County Animal Shelter with a deadline of 2 AM Thursday morning.

This sweet brown dog is a mother at ten months of age, and she and her puppies are destined to be euthanized tomorrow morning if no one steps up to adopt or foster. They are available for adoption immediately and transportation can be arranged.

These two 16-week old lab puppy males are still available for adoption.

Six black lab mix puppies (above) and their mother (below).

 

The year-and-a-half Boxer female above is the shelter volunteers’ favorite because she’s sweet to people and other dogs.

This black lab mix male is about ten months old and has the beginning of mange, but it’s easily treated.

There are a half-dozen other dogs in dire need before Thursday. Transportation for any of these dogs to the Atlanta area is available for free and we have sponsors who are willing to pay the adoption fee for any of these dogs. Email me if you’re interested in adopting and have any questions.

To save one of these souls, here is the contact information:

Lisa Hester, volunteer
[email protected]
[email protected]

Megan706-260-5251 (daytime Tu,Th,F)(TEXT or call)
706-695-8003
[email protected]

Pauline Davis
[email protected]
706-463-2194, TEXT messages only

If you are not able to save a dog at this time, you also may make a donation on behalf of one of the dogs or for a “hard to place” dog. To make a donation, simply go to www.paypal.com, click on the “send money” tab on the home page and enter the shelter acct, [email protected]. In the subject line, indicate this is a donation for the (brief descrip and/or ID # of animal or “hard to place dog”). IMPORTANT: Be sure to designate the payment as a “gift” or PayPal will take part of it.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Early voting has started in the runoff election for Senate District 30 between Bill Hembree and Mike Dugan.

Both Hembree and Dugan are expected to speak at the Dec. 1 county Republican meeting at Sunnyside Cafe in Carrollton, likely their last joint appearance before the election.

On the campaign trail, Hembree is emphasizing his years of experience as a legislator and his conservative background, while Dugan is running as a new face, with a new approach to the problems facing the state.

Hembree, 46, a Douglas County insurance agent, served 18 years as a Republican member of the Georgia House of Representatives, chairing higher education, rules and industrial relations committees. On Sept. 6, he resigned from the House to enter the state Senate race.

Dugan, 49, is making his first run for public office. He is emphasizing his military and business experience as training for the Legislature. He has pledged to hold regular town hall meetings, if elected, and to work for term limits. He said it’s time for new ideas and new leadership.

Hembree was strong in the early voting phase of the general election when he received more votes than he did on Election Day.

District 30 comprises portions of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties.

Extra points are awarded to the Douglas County Sentinel writer who actually used the word “comprise” correctly.

The nascent City of Brookhaven will also elect a Mayor and three City Council members in runoff elections. I’ll be voting for J. Max Davis for Mayor.

 During his campaign, Davis said he had a great experience connecting the voters with his campaign, which showed in his voting results numbers.

His campaign style also includes going door-to-door and phone calling — but Davis also held meet and greets in the homes of his supporters, as well as restaurants.

“I did meetings anywhere people wanted to meet and I would come and meet and talk with them,” he said.

On his continuing campaign before the runoff, Davis does not plan to change anything, but would like to replicate the results of last Tuesday.

“We’re just focused more on getting people out to vote,” he said.

In Brookhaven District 2, Rebecca Chase Williams is the likely winner and I would vote for her if I lived in that district.

In Brookhaven District 3, Kevin Quirk came in ten votes behind Bates Mattison in the initial election. Quirk has been going door-to-door, while I haven’t seen Mattison in my neighborhood.

In Brookhaven District 4, Joe Gebbia has been endorsed by State Rep. Mike Jacobs and will likely win.

“Joe Gebbia has displayed the ability to reach out to all individuals in his district,” said state Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, who was theauthor of the Brookhaven cityhood bill. “Whether you were for or against cityhood, Joe has proven that he’s committed to bringing our city together.”

The Brookhaven Patch has a pretty good analysis of the runoffs.

Plant Vogtle’s new reactors may be later than previously thought in being brought online as construction is running behind schedule. According to a story by Kristi Swartz in the AJC:

Worker training, increased project oversight and stiffer regulatory requirements are chief reasons behind the delay, tacking on six months’ worth of additional labor costs, Georgia Power has said. The project’s main contractors say the delays could be even longer, with the first reactor starting up in early-to-mid 2017 and the second one a year later.

The first of the $14 billion reactors was originally scheduled to be finished in April 2016, and the second one a year later. Regulatory and other pre-construction delays had already changed the estimate to six months later than that.

The delay had lead to a 1 percent increase in Georgia Power’s $6.1 billion portion of the project, but customers currently are not paying any of those additional costs because the utility has not asked utility regulators for permission to recoup that money.

David McKinney, Southern Nuclear’s vice president of construction support for Vogtle 3 and 4, revealed the contractors new estimated dates of “early to mid 2017, 2018” in a hearing Tuesday before the Georgia Public Service Commission.

The new reactors at Vogtle are the first to be built from scratch in the United States in 30 years. Georgia Power officials acknowledged that the project is under intense regulatory scrutiny from a cost and safety standpoint.

Frank Poe, Executive Director of the Georgia World Congress Center announced that a deal for a new Atlanta stadium should be ready by December 31st. Taxpayers will be on the hook for roughly one-third of the estimated $1-1.2 billion cost through the hotel-motel tax. Common Cause is rightly raising questions about the process and the public’s role or lack thereof.

Leaders with the Atlanta Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority have talked privately about a new stadium. Those talks are legal as long a quorum of a government board is not present.

Common Cause Georgia Executive Director William Perry stands across the street from the Georgia Dome, where the Atlanta Falcons play. Perry has questions about plans for a new Falcons stadium
Even if they are not breaking the law, Common Cause Georgia head William Perry argues the groups should add seats at the table for the public.

“When we’ve got a state agency dealing with a $1.2 billion facility, a third of which will be funded by taxpayers, taxpayers and citizens have a right and need to be engaged in the process,” said Perry.

Georgia might appeal a decision by a Federal Court of Appeals that prevents HB 87′s prohibition on knowingly transporting or harboring illegal immigrants in the course of another crime to the United States Supreme Court.

The state had asked the appeals court to reconsider its decision against a part of the law that would punish people who knowingly transport or harbor illegal immigrants while committing other crimes. In August, the court ruled the measure is pre-empted by federal law, which already prohibits such activities.

Another part of the statute — nicknamed the “show-me-your-papers law” — has been on hold while the case was before the appeals court. That other provision would give police the option to investigate the immigration status of suspects they believe have committed state or federal crimes and who cannot provide identification or other information that could help police identify them.

Georgia has about 90 days to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could accept or decline such a case. Under that scenario, the state’s show-me-your-papers law could remain on hold until the Supreme Court acts.

“We are considering our options and no decisions have been made at this time,” the Georgia Attorney General’s Office said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Republican and Democratic legislators representing Macon and Bibb County are at odds whether to change local elections to non-partisan following the merger of the city and county governments.

A Republican-led push for nonpartisan elections in Bibb County led to clear fissures in the county’s legislative delegation hearings Tuesday at the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce.

State Rep. Nikki Randall, D-Macon, said partisan elections were continued in the consolidation proposal that voters approved this year.

“Are we saying, ‘We got you to vote for it, now we’re going to change it?’” Randall asked. “Some may consider it to be a deceptive act.”

Randall said she expected bills for nonpartisan elections will be filed by state Sen. Cecil Staton and state Rep. Allen Peake, both Macon Republicans whom she thinks have the votes needed to pass them.

In a 2013 budget proposal released Tuesday, Nash unveiled a spending plan incorporating a new balance of funding created by a settlement with local cities over services. It divides the county into districts, ensuring that city residents do not pay county taxes for services they only receive from the city.

While that means all city residents will receive a break on paying for development and enforcement taxes, the biggest break will come for those in cities with their own police forces.

But Nash said the service from the county police department will change little. So with fewer taxpayers footing the bill for the county force, the tax bills for unincorporated residents (and those in cities without police departments) are expected to go up.

“Essentially, it’s a redistribution,” Nash said. “We feel like the safety of the residents is so important. I could not bring myself to make the cuts needed to balance the budget in the police district.”

The Gwinnett County Commission also approved an additional payment to Partnership Gwinnett, an economic development joint venture with the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce that has been under fire over its spending and whether records of Partnership Gwinnett are subject to state Open Records laws.

Under a new agreement approved by the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, the funds contributed to Partnership Gwinnett will be public.

A progress and financial report for the new nonprofit entity, along with a Board of Directors formed by the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce will be approved by the county. It would also keep the money separate from the chamber’s private donations.

“Their records will be open to an open records process so the county and the public will be aware of how those funds are used,” said Bryan Lackey, director of the county’s planning and development department.

The Columbus City Council settled a lawsuit with Expedia.com and Hotels.com over hotel occupancy taxes owed the city and which resulted in the websites pulling Columbus accomodations from their listings.

Without discussion, Columbus Council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to approve a settlement of the city’s lawsuit against online travel websites Expedia.com and Hotels.com for approximately $586,000.

In addition to the money, the companies agree to remit the full amount of hotel occupancy taxes due to the city and to re-list local hotels on their websites, City Attorney Clifton Fay said.

The Expedia case is the second such case the city has settled with online travel sites. The city settled with Orbitz for $230,000 in 2010 and Priceline settled with the city for about $72,000 with no litigation. Those bring the city’s total in settlements to just over $888,000.

The litigation between the city and the online travel brokers began in 2006, when the city sued, claiming the companies were not remitting the proper amount of hotel occupancy taxes. Ostensibly in reaction to the lawsuits, many online brokers stopped listing Columbus hotels on their websites, costing local hoteliers business.

If travelers entered Columbus into the websites, they were directed to hotels in nearby cities instead.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will close its Georgia Rural Development Office in Baxley.

Sumter County Commissioner A.J. Hurley will face trial for bribery as jury selection begins today in federal court in Albany.

Hurley is accused of agreeing to accept $20,000 in bribes from an unidentified asbestos abatement company licensed in Michigan in order to influence the vote of a contract before the Sumter County Commission, according to the indictment levied against him by a federal grand jury in May.

The government contends Hurley received two bribes.

Hurley has denied the accusations and maintains his innocence.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November19, 2012

Biscuit (black-and-tan) and Mayflower (yellow) are lab-hound mix puppies who are approximately 3-4 months old and weigh about 15 pounds each; the littermates are available for adoption from Walton County Animal Control.

June is a happy , beautiful, adorable, playful, very affectionate lab mixed puppy, who is about 3 months old and weighs around 8 lbs; she is available for adoption from the Savannah Chatham Animal Control.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Because GeorgiaDailyDigest.com and GeorgiaPoliticalDigest.com have shut their doors, we’ve started GaNewsDigest.com to provide a wider variety of links to news stories about Georgia politics, business & economy, education and energy issues. The site is updated through the day.

On Friday, Governor Nathan Deal announced that he decided against setting up a state healthcare exchange under Obamacare.

“I remain committed to common sense health care solutions that empower consumers to take responsibility for their own health, motivate the private sector and drive efficiencies for consumers, employers and governments alike,” Deal said. “I continue to hope that we might finally engage in a serious conversation about restoring meaningful flexibility to states around health care programs.”

Deal said the federal government needs to loosen regulations that restrict states’ options.

“We have no interest in spending our tax dollars on an exchange that is state-based in name only,” Deal said. “I would support a free market-based approach that could serve as a useful tool for Georgia’s small businesses, but federal guidelines forbid that. Instead, restrictions on what the exchanges can and can’t offer render meaningless the suggestion that Georgia could tailor an exchange that best fits the unique needs of its population.

“I have joined numerous other governors seeking guidance from the federal government on establishing exchanges. We’ve yet to receive serious answers to our questions. I will not commit Georgia taxpayers to a project with so many unknowns.”

State Senator Vincent Fort (D) doesn’t like anything ever done by any Republican anywhere  Governor Deal’s decision.

“I bet this crowd, when the feds set up the health care exchanges, are going to howl about that,” Fort said.

Fort also said that putting uninsured people in the Medicaid program would decrease the costs that insured patients pay to cover the bills of those who need medical care but lack insurance to pay for it.

“It’s unfortunate that the governor’s chosen to put politics over the need of Georgians,” Fort said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a feature on the long, strange trip that is Glenn Richardson’s political career. The story is worth reading in its entirety.

In Senate District 30, where Richardson failed to make the December 4th Runoff, State Rep. Bill Hembree will meet Carrollton businessman Mike Dugan, and it’s a jump ball.

Hembree led the four-candidate field in all three counties of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding, which comprise District 30. He led Carroll with 12,173 votes, topping two Carroll County candidates — Dugan, with 9,703 votes, and business consultant Jim Naughton, who had 5,091 votes. Former Georgia Secretary of State Glenn Richardson of Hiram finished a distant fourth in Carroll County with 3,627 votes.

In the total district vote, Hembree got 27,565 votes; Dugan, 13,843; Richardson, 8,467; and Naughton, 7,043.

Hembree believes the upcoming advance voting will be important to his chances of winning — he said his campaign determined that he received roughly 15,000 votes during the general election’s early voting cycle. That would account for more votes than he received on Election Day.

“We received more in advance voting than we did on election day,” Hembree said. “With 15,000 voting for me early, if we can get that same type of commitment we feel like that is a real positive step for us.”

In 2011, a pair of Senate special elections held in November went into December runoff elections; in SD 28, Duke Blackburn led the first balloting but was overtaken by now-Senator Mike Crane in the runoff and in SD 50, former State Rep. Rick Austin led the first election but lost the runoff to Senator John Wilkinson. There was some spillover in those elections from the leadership battles in the State Senate that may be absent this year, but those examples should serve as a cautionary tale to anyone finding himself or herself in a December runoff.

Here’s what I told the Carrollton Times-Georgian:

“I could go on all day with examples [of December runoffs that reversed earlier results],” said Todd Rehm. “That said, Bill Hembree still has to be considered the leader in the runoff for SD 30. Hembree’s experience and ability to fundraise, along with the fact that Hembree carried Carroll County, make it his race to lose. But if there’s a lesson for candidates who come in first in November elections and head for a runoff it’s that they can’t afford to take anything for granted and Bill Hembree should be doing everything possible to ensure his victory.

“And remember, there’s yet another election in January.”

Speaking of Senate leadership, here’s an interesting inside tidbit: Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) punched above her weight at the Swamp Showdown in Little Ocmulgee State Park, where the Senate Republican Caucus elections were held last week.

Renee Unterman, another powerful senator from the Gwinnett delegation, said she was honored to nominate and second Shafer for the position [of President Pro Tem], during a meeting at Little Ocmulgee State Park. She had 19 proxies from the Reform Caucus to support her colleague.

“Our Reform Caucus is committed to uniting fellow senators with the lieutenant governor restoring order, transparency, and ethics to the Georgia State Senate,” she said of the group.

The appointment is a coup for the county, she said.

“Gwinnett’s prominence continues to rise with the state’s legislative leadership, as our delegation leads both in the Senate and the House,” she said. “Sen. Shafer is a shinning example of our talent in Gwinnett County.”

So, including her own vote, Unterman was voting for an absolute majority of the Republican Caucus.

Walter C. Jones of the Morris News Service writes about what changes in Senate leadership may mean for the state.

The leaders legislators picked says a lot about them and the coming two-year term of the General Assembly.

House Republicans made no changes. Most observers figure they didn’t need any. They had success on Election Day, during the last session passing major legislation and in negotiating contentious bills like the budget and tax reform with the Senate and the governor.

His loss continues the concentration of power in North Georgia. With the exception of mid-state residents House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal of Bonaire and Senate Majority Whip Cecil Staton of Macon, the leaders reside upstate.

The Senate Republicans did make changes to their leaders.

Winning the nomination for president pro tem was David Shafer of Duluth. Other winners are Ronnie Chance of Tyrone as majority leader and Butch Miller of Gainesville as caucus chairman.

Consider how their elections consolidate power. Shafer has been a long-time ally of Cagle, who’s from Hall County like Miller and Gov. Nathan Deal. Chance has been Deal’s Senate floor leader.

Having the bulk of the legislative leadership living close enough together to carpool to the Capitol could mean favoritism toward the region they all call home. But remember that two of Deal’s top projects are the deepening of the ship channel in the Savannah River and investing enough in Georgia Regents University in Augusta to make it one of the country’s premier medical schools.

At the very least, it suggests there will be close cooperation. It may not seem possible to exceed last year when Deal’s signature legislation, criminal-justice reform, passed unanimously and his HOPE reforms nearly did the year before. But other bills ran into less harmony, and Deal and Ralston reportedly held off on more ambitious legislation out of fear of discord, mainly in the Senate.

Now, a new combination of leaders will give their full attention to legislation. And as Shelton said, “Any organization is a reflection of its leadership.”

The image in the reflection is coming into focus, and it looks a lot like a soft-spoken grandfather, Nathan Deal.

Given Governor Deal’s leadership in bringing jobs to Georgia, and his respectful approach to working with the legislature, this bodes well for our state.

State Senate Democrats will meet today to elect their leadership.

Welcome to the 2013 season of Georgia Republican Party elections! I’ve already received a piece of direct mail from John Padgett, who is running for First Vice Chair. Here’s my two cents: if you want my vote, you have to ask me for it personally. The pool of eventual voters for Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party is small enough that you can identify frequent flyers from past convention cycles and start calling them personally.

The first rule I tell anyone running for office is that the best way to earn someone’s vote is to ask them for it personally; everything else, all mass media, are second-best ways of dealing with the fact that in most elections above the level of State House, you won’t be able to reach every voter personally. This is the most fundamental rule of winning elections.

Unfortunately, the last few cycles have seen GAGOP elections take on the aspects of large-scale media-driven campaigns featuring direct mail, robocalls, websites, and mass emails. But it doesn’t speak well of your promise to be the “Grassroots” candidate if you don’t personally contact the actual voters who make up the grassroots, tell them about yourself, and ask personally for their vote.

If you want a truly grassroots-drive Georgia Republican Party, join me in declining to vote for anyone who does not ask personally for your vote.

Speaker David Ralston will address the Nov. 28 breakfast of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Marietta Chapter.

The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials has notified the Gainesville City Council that it objects to the at-large districts in which council members are elected.

“At-large voting processes have been undone by litigation in many jurisdictions across the county,” said Jerry Gonzalez, GALEO’s executive director. “We believe the city of Gainesville is not in compliance with the Voting Rights Act and we want to work to eliminate the at-large voting process with the City Council cooperatively.”

File under bad headline writing: “Gov. Deal to pay fees in failed ethics complaint” states the headline in the Rome News-Tribune, which might sound like Governor Deal was being fined for an ethics complaint filed against him. But the story is about the State Ethics Commission deciding against making Rome-based ethics gadfly George Anderson pay the legal fees incurred by Deal’s campaign to defend against a frivolous ethics complaint that was dismissed.

The Government Transparency Commission voted 3-1 on Friday against making Anderson pay a portion of the legal fees that Deal spent to address complaints from Anderson….

Anderson apologized for some of the language used in his complaints. But he said it’s unfair to ask citizens to pay for lawyer fees when their complaints against public officials are rejected.

The executive director of Georgia Common Cause, William Perry, said his group was concerned that forcing citizens to pay would discourage others from filing complaints.

File this one under “please don’t give the General Assembly any ideas.”

Moonshine distillers are making their first batches of legal liquor in this tiny Georgia town’s city hall, not far from the mountains and the maroon, orange and gold canopy of trees that once hid bootleggers from the law.

A handful of moonshine distilleries are scattered around the South, but observers say this is the first they’ve ever seen right in a city hall. The distilleries come amid an increased interest in the U.S. for locally made specialty spirits and beer brewed in homes and micro-breweries.

The Dawsonville moonshine makers and city officials say the operation helps preserve a way of life. It also carries on traditions of an era when moonshine meant extra income for farmers, medicine for their children and helped fuel the beginnings of NASCAR racing.

“Dawson County was, sure enough, the moonshine capital of the world at one time,” distiller Dwight Bearden said, as he checked on the still where the third batch of Dawsonville Moonshine was being prepared. “It was just a way of life back then.”

Last week, the distillery was delivering the second batch of moonshine it’s made to its distributor, which has orders from liquor stores and other businesses around the state. Georgia law prohibits the distillery from selling its liquor at the site, but allows a distributor to ship it to stores with a liquor license, where it can be sold legally.

Wood recently got approval from state officials to offer small samples for tourists to taste.

State Rep. Rusty Kidd of Milledgeville, who introduced that bill during the most recent session, said Thursday he believes there will be more legislation during the upcoming session that would allow the Dawsonville distillery and others in the state to sell a single bottle of moonshine to tourists who want to take one home.

Locally made and locally grown products are a key aspect of the business, she said. A batch of apples fermenting last week came from the north Georgia town of Ellijay, about 30 miles away, she said.

The local movement has been a successful one in north Georgia, where several vineyards dot the mountain landscape and offer tastings of wines made with locally grown grapes. In Blue Ridge, at least one apple orchard brews and bottles its own apple and peach ciders.

Corn used by the distillery is also grown locally, and the distillery sticks to authentic recipes and doesn’t use any sugar, Wood said.

“This ain’t sugar liquor,” she said, “this is the real deal.”