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 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
lisakhe[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 Oct. 12, 2012

Advance voting begins Monday for the November 6th General Election. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s early voting page has links to dates, times and places for your county’s advance voting. Remember to bring your Photo ID to vote; here’s complete information on which forms of Photo ID are acceptable.

Adoptable Dogs


If you’ve ever wanted one of those dogs you could take a picture of, add a funny caption, and make them famous on the internet, The Wise Buddah might be for you. This young blonde-haired, blue-eyed mixed breed is said to be very fun and playful and is available for adoption from the Fayette County Animal Shelter.

Tidbit is said to be a Doberman/Shepherd mix, but I’m thinking hound dog. Those ears aren’t stand-uppy enough to be either of those breed, but what do I know. He’s said to be a happy, affectionate pup and he’s available for adoption from the Fayette County Animal Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Voters in the CNN poll gave last night’s decision to Republican Nominee for Vice President Paul Ryan by a tight 48-44 margin.

Half of all debate watchers questioned in the poll said the showdown didn’t make them more likely to vote for either of the candidates’ bosses, 28% said the debate made them more likely to vote for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and 21% said the faceoff made them more likely to vote to re-elect President Barack Obama.

According to the survey, 55% said that the vice president did better than expected, with 51% saying that the congressman from Wisconsin performed better than expected.

By a 50%-41% margin, debate watchers say that Ryan rather than Biden better expressed himself.

Seven in ten said Biden was seen as spending more time attacking his opponent, and that may be a contributing factor in Ryan’s 53%-43% advantage on being more likable. Ryan also had a slight advantage on being more in touch with the problems of average Americans.

CBS News gave the win to Biden by 50-31.

Party-wise it’s a switch from last week’s presidential debate, which uncommitted voters handed easily to Romney over President Obama.

Both Biden and Ryan gained ground on relatability and knowledge. The percentage of voters who say they believe they can relate to Biden spiked from 34 percent before the debate to 55 percent; 48 percent think Ryan is relatable, up from 31 percent before the debate. Meanwhile, after watching the two candidates debate, 85 percent of those polled think Biden is knowledgeable about the issues; 75 percent say that about Ryan.

Ryan, though, faced a loss among voters’ opinions of which candidate would be an effective president, if necessary. Before the debate, he led Biden 45 percent to 39 percent; after the debate, 56 percent of those polled said Biden would be an effective president, with fewer – 49 percent–saying the same about Ryan.

Either way, though, it may matter little, as pre-debate polling by Rasmussen found that only 18% of American voters said that the Vice Presidential debate would be very important to their vote choice. History suggests that the VP candidate has very little influence on the eventual election results. Continue reading

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 9, 2012


Meet Cliff, who was born with a cleft palate and needs help for surgery to correct his birth defect. Most dogs born with a cleft palate die or are euthanized as puppies, but against the odds, Cliff has survived to adulthood. That’s not the only tough odds Cliff has faced; he was found abandoned, tied up to a tree and starving.

Lifeline Animal Project took Cliff into their shelter and paid for his care, eventually bringing him into an after-school program for high school students, and now he lives with a foster family. The fosters say he is a great, loving dog. Lifeline is asking for donations to pay for surgery to correct his cleft palate; without surgery his prognosis for long-term survival is grim.

To give for Cliff’s surgery, visit Lifeline Animal Project and donate online, designating the gift for Cliff in the comments. While you’re on their website, check out some of their other dogs and cats. You may also mail a donation to A New Life For Cliff, LifeLine Animal Project, PO Box 15466, Atlanta, GA 30333.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

After we released a poll showing Governor Romney increasing his lead among Georgia voters, Steve Perkins, a member of the Democratic State Committee, the State Executive Commite,  and a Delegate to the Democratic National Convention, posted on Facebook in response to a question about the poll:

Six lines of text that contain five misspelled words. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the leadership of the Georgia Democratic Party.

Speaking of polling, yesterday, Pew Research released new data showing a dead heat between Mitt Romney and President Obama among all voters, and a three-point Romney lead among likely voters.

Rasmussen moved the Ohio Senate race between Republican Josh Mandel and Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown into a dead heat as well.

Voter Registration and Elections

The General Election date is November 6th, 2012. The deadline for voter registration for the General Election is TODAY, October 9, 2012. 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, 2012here’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.

As of yesterday, more than 126,000 Georgia voters had requested mail-in absentee ballot.

Floyd County added net voters to its rolls, reporting that in October 130 newly registered voters were added while 16 were removed for various reasons. Overall, voter numbers are down in Extreme Northwest Georgia.

As of Oct. 1, there were 224,197 registered in Floyd, Bartow, Chattooga, Polk, Gordon, Walker, Catoosa and Dade counties, according to the latest Georgia secretary of state report.

The Sept. 1 report showed 226,560 on the rolls — already a decrease from the 236,769 registered for the last presidential election in 2008.

A Get-Out-The-Vote ad filmed in Macon is now available for viewing online.

The ad appears to have an anti-Obama slant, and underneath the video on the website is the statement “America is hurting. We’re going into our 44th month with an unemployment rate above 8%. After being promised change, we haven’t seen it. This Election Day, your vote is the choice between a broken economy and a brighter future. Help make the difference–VOTE!”

State and Local Issues

Online shoppers will find a new item in their shopping cart: Georgia state sales taxes will now be collected in more online transactions.

With changes in the tax law that began to take effect last week, the state intends to begin treating some online retailers the same way it treats those with stores here: by collecting sales tax.

That means Georgians who avoid paying sales tax by buying online may now find that harder to do.

The amount of money people spend online is growing steadily and shows no signs of abating. In Georgia alone, a 2009 University of Tennessee estimate projected the state would lose as much as $455.5 million in uncollected sales tax from online purchases in 2012.

Collecting the tax from some web sellers that were not previously required to charge sales tax will add an estimated $18 million a year to the state’s coffers.

With the change, the state will collect just a portion of the missing dollars, but in Georgia and around the country, revenue shortfalls caused by the recession have added urgency to the push for more sales tax collections.

It’s also an issue of fairness for stores in local strip centers and shopping malls, which pay property taxes and contribute to the fabric of a community. A desire to put them on equal footing with online competitors has galvanized support to extend sales tax collections in many states. There is an expectation, too, that action by the states may lead the federal government to change laws regarding sales tax collections. Online-sales-tax bills are wending their way through the House and the Senate.

“It means a great deal to small business,” said Rick McAllister, president and CEO of the Georgia Retail Association. “It’s tough to start out the day at a mom-and-pop retail store when you’re at an 8 percent disadvantage before you open the door.”

Stores are only required to charge sales tax for online purchases in a state if they have a physical presence in that state: a Macy’s store at Lenox Square, for example, or a call center in Alpharetta.

Georgia has expanded its definition of a “physical presence” to get more online stores to collect sales tax from their customers.

Beginning last week, that included companies that use warehouses or offices in the state, whether they own them or not. At the end of the year, it will also include companies that have click-through ads on Georgia-based websites, known as affiliate relationships.

MARTA spent $144,000 on a psychological firm to assess the agency’s work environment.

Contracts showed $24,000 was to be paid to Dockery’s company in October 2010 for an initial assessment of MARTA leadership. The board agreed to pay the company and its minority partner, Optimism Matters, another $120,000.

“Interview feedback gathered from the Executive Management Team (EMT) and the board during September and November revealed numerous opportunities for performance improvement for Dr. Beverly Scott and the other members of the executive team,” the consulting group said in a November 2010 proposal to Tyler.

Jill Perry-Smith, an expert on organizational behavior at the Emory University, said businesses commonly hire outside consultants to try and determine what might be creating management problems, but such probes are generally are topical and not focused on the top executive.

“That is unusual,” she said. “It might suggest there is a problem with the leadership that needs to be addressed or it might suggest something else. It might send an unintended message that those commissioning it did not intend to send.”

MARTA has long battled criticism of its management and spending, with state lawmakers especially critical. State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, called the absence of a written evaluation from the Marietta consultant troubling.

“It’s a fairly extensive evaluation on an odd subject matter for which there appears to be no tangible result,” said Jacobs, who chairs the legislative committee that oversees MARTA. “I am going to ask questions about it. I would inquire into what was spent, how it was used and what the results were. I’m not going to prejudge the propriety of he expenditure but it certainly is questionable on its face.”

Maria Saporta accuses Jacobs of a bizarre conspiracy to takeover MARTA.

State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-DeKalb) has been quick to critique MARTA in just about any way he can.

But now it’s time to turn the table on Jacobs. During the search for a new general manager for MARTA, Jacobs acted in a most inappropriate manner by inserting himself into the process.

So why would Jacobs insert himself into MARTA’s search process when he had no appropriate role to do so?

The possible answers are disturbing. Did Jacobs and Ferrell have some kind of deal to help the state gain control over MARTA? Would Ferrell have viewed Jacobs as his true boss rather than the MARTA board? In other words, was Jacobs hoping to insert Ferrell as his puppet at MARTA?

Remember, the State of Georgia provides virtually no financial support for MARTA, and as such, it has no right to try to call the shots.

Actually, because MARTA is a creature of the legislature through the MARTA Act, the legislature does have the right and responsibility of oversight. The MARTOC committee, which Jacobs chairs, will meet on Thursday from 9 AM to noon in Room 406 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building.

Local officials in Douglasville, which has a goofy system that pays per meeting attended rather than a salary, have agreed to pay back more than $24,000 in payments received for meetings that did not occur or did not meet the city’s guidelines for payment.

Of these 284 improper payments, 91 were improper $313 payments to former Mayor Mickey Thompson, for which he has been indicted on theft by taking charges. That leaves 193 payments that went to members of council since 2007, with some members being paid for more than 30 meetings at $125 each – meetings that did not fit within the ordinance.

That means that Thompson was paid $28,483 that the GBI deemed improper. City council members received $24,313 improperly – for a total of $52,796 paid that was outside what is allowable by law.

The illegal payments, were first uncovered by a series of open records requests by the Douglas County Sentinel and then verified by the GBI probe based on the newspaper’s findings. The issue resulted from the current pay-by-the-meeting compensation used for elected officials. Council members are paid $125 per meeting and the mayor is paid $313 per meeting. Every other municipality of a similar size in Georgia pays a flat monthly salary to elected officials.

[Current Mayor Harvey] Persons said that in some instances, payments were made based on approvals by the former mayor, even though the council members in some cases didn’t request the payment.

“In closing, let me point out the City Council on Oct. 1 unanimously adopted a resolution to change the method of payment for the City’s elected officials from a per meeting basis to a fixed monthly salary basis,” Persons said. “Currently, we are reviewing how to accomplish this in accordance with State election laws governing a change in the level of an elected official’s compensation level other than at the start of the term of office for those elected at the next regular municipal election in November 2013.”

“I have said from the day I took office in January that the City of Douglasville needed to change how its elected officials are paid. I remain committed to seeing that this is done, and all members of the current City Council are in total agreement with this statement.”

No court date has been set for Thompson. Court records show that he has waived an arraignment and indications are that a plea deal, which would include repayment, is being worked out on the charges.

Click HereRome City Commissioners met with their local legislative delegation to discuss the city’s priorities and position for the 2013 Session of the General Assembly.

“A lot of what you do in the legislature affects us; in the services we provide, in the way we get our money,” City Manager John Bennett said. “And sometimes there are unintended consequences to what you do.”

State Reps. Katie Demp­sey, R-Rome, and Barbara Massey Reece, D-Menlo, attended the session along with two Georgia Municipal Association staffers, then the group toured city facilities on the Toonerville Trolley. State Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, is on Georgia National Guard duty and state Sen.-elect Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, also was absent because of work obligations.

Rome City Commission members met with local lawmakers Wednesday to discuss priorities for the 2013 Georgia General Assembly session. Their No. 1 wish: Consider the hometown impact of every proposed action.

“A lot of what you do in the legislature affects us; in the services we provide, in the way we get our money,” City Manager John Bennett said. “And sometimes there are unintended consequences to what you do.”

State Reps. Katie Demp­sey, R-Rome, and Barbara Massey Reece, D-Menlo, attended the session along with two Georgia Municipal Association staffers, then the group toured city facilities on the Toonerville Trolley. State Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, is on Georgia National Guard duty and state Sen.-elect Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, also was absent because of work obligations.

  • Board members asked lawmakers to keep pushing to allow local collection of sales tax, instead of running it through the Georgia Department of Revenue.“We have a better idea here who’s paying and who’s not paying, plus we’d get a more accurate remission,” Mayor Evie McNiece said.The Commission also supports a sales tax on Internet sales, she said, because tax-free sellers are unfair competition for local merchants.
  • Commissioners also want the Legislature to stop redirecting fees collected for special funds — such as the solid waste trust fund, teen driver education and public safety training.The House passed a bill this year that would halt collections if the money isn’t used for its intended purpose, but it did not pass the Senate by the end of the session. Dempsey said she expects it to be resubmitted in 2013.
  • The elimination of the “birthday tax” on car tags and the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing also are expected to affect local budgets.Lost money from the car tags will supposedly be made up by a new tax on person-to-person car sales but Commissioner Jamie Doss said local officials across the state are concerned that the revenue projections won’t hold up over time.

Augusta City Council candidates Mary Davis (D3) and Donnie Smith (D7) lead fundraising in their respective races.

Davis, who once served as Mayor Deke Copenhaver’s campaign chairwoman, has raised the most of any of the 11 candidates for the five seats. She has collected $38,865 since starting her campaign and has $21,030 on hand.

United State Senator Johnny Isakson’s office will have a staffer available for constituent issues in Rome on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, from 2 to 4 PM in the conference room of the Coosa Valley Credit Union, 1504 Dean Avenue, Rome, Ga. 30161.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for Oct. 5, 2012

The General Election date is November 6th, 2012. The deadline for voter registration for the General Election is October 9, 2012, you have THREE DAYS TO ENSURE YOU ARE REGISTERED TO VOTE. 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, 2012here’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.

Dog Rescue

2210, 2238, and 2095 are black lab mixes who are available for adoption from the Floyd County Animal Shelter in Rome, Georgia.

27851 is a beautiful male German Shepherd, and is one of the dogs who is eligible for Gwinnett County Animal Shelter’s “Black Friday Sale,” where all black or majority black dogs and cats may be adopted for $30.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced a sales tax holiday for this weekend, October 5-7th for Energy Star and WaterSense appliances and fixtures:

“I encourage everyone to play their part in maintaining our environment by participating in the tax-free holiday to save money and, ultimately, conserve Georgia’s resources,” Deal said.

The sales tax holiday will take place Oct. 5-7 and will apply to:

  • Dishwashers, clothes washers, air conditioners, ceiling fans, fluorescent light bulbs, dehumidifiers, programmable thermostats, refrigerators, doors and windows that have the ENERGY STAR label and a purchase price of $1,500 or less.
  • Bathroom sink faucets, high-efficiency toilets and urinals, showerheads, faucet accessories (such as aerators), and weather- or sensor-based irrigation controllers that have the WaterSense label and a purchase price of $1,500 or less.

The state and local sales tax exemption will not apply to items purchased for trade or business use, or items rented or leased.

Attorney General Sam Olens followed-up on his legal advice to his client, Dr. John Barge, Georgia State School Superintendent, in which Olens said that elected school board members cannot advocate for approval or rejection of election measures using public resources.

“We’re currently working on advice to the state school superintendent on what enforcement mechanisms may be appropriate or necessary,” Olens told journalists in a conference call Thursday afternoon. “Because that’s active, I’m not going to get into those details right now.”

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said Thursday that he will have more to say, in the next couple of weeks, about whether local school boards violated state law when they approved resolutions opposing the charter schools amendment.

“We’re currently working on advice to the state school superintendent on what enforcement mechanisms may be appropriate or necessary,” Olens told journalists in a conference call Thursday afternoon. “Because that’s active, I’m not going to get into those details right now.”

Some supporters of the charter schools amendment have complained that Georgia Schools Superintendent John Barge and several school boards violated state law by using taxpayer resources to oppose the amendment. Barge wrote Olens seeking guidance, and on Wednesday the attorney general responded with a three-page letter citing the law against using taxpayer resources to participate in a political campaign.

Olens’ letter only addressed only school boards, not the actions by supporters of the amendment, which he said he was not asked to address. Some legislators have been active in supporting the amendment, and Gov. Nathan Deal has endorsed it in public speeches.

“Some questions, like whether certain groups have broken the law, I can’t answer because they are fact-intensive questions, and I don’t have the facts,” Olens said. “I’m not going to get into answering hypothetical questions about what does and doesn’t violate the law when I have an active matter on the issue.”

The MARTA Board voted to hire Keith Parker, currently head of VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio as the next General Manager.

Board Chairman Fred Daniels said the board would be negotiating a contract with Keith Parker, who is currently the chief of VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio.

Daniels noted that Parker was coming from a politically conservative area. He hoped that would serve Parker well in negotiations with Georgia’s GOP-dominated Legislature, which provides no funding for MARTA, if the Legislature “gives him a chance.”

“He has worked well with both the business community and the political community,” Daniels said. “He has a track record in San Antonio of working with both Republicans and Democrats. Same thing in Charlotte.”

Not having such a good relationship with Republicans is the MARTA Board itself, who rejected the advice of State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-City of Brookhaven), Chairs of the legislature’s MARTA Oversight Committee.

In choosing Parker, MARTA’s board of directors rejected an internal candidate who had been favored by state Rep. Mike Jacobs.

“The decision the MARTA Board makes … may well determine in the very near term the direction of its relationship with the General Assembly. An internal candidate who is committed to doing the work that needs to be done to get MARTA’s fiscal ship righted could go a long way to shoring up and bolstering the relationship with the General Assembly.”

Parker was selected by a unanimous vote of 9-0, with one abstention – board member Wendy Butler. Butler served as Jacobs’ campaign manager in his 2010 bid for reelection to the state House, according to her vita on linkedin.com.

And then the MARTA Board poked the legislature with a stick by allegedly violating the state’s Open Meetings law.

In a complaint filed with the state attorney general, Republican State Representative Mike Jacobs of Atlanta is alleging MARTA’s search chair requested final decisions from each board member via emails dating back to September 13th.

Hollie Manheimer of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation says the email correspondence appears to meet the definition of a vote.

“When you go from one person to the next looking for some kind of consensus, that gets awfully close to the definition of a vote,” said Manheimer.

“Historically the AG [attorney general] has always said things like a rolling or walking quorum are violations of the law and I would very much expect Mr. Olens to keep on with that interpretation.”

But Holland & Knight attorney Robert Highsmith, who is representing the MARTA board, says the emails don’t break state law.

“If members want to inquire with each other how they intend to vote in a future meeting, that’s perfectly permissible and if the public wants to review those emails they are permitted to do so under the Open Records Act.”

If you’ve always wondered what Robert Highsmith sounds like, you can hear him in the WABE piece online yet again insisting his client did no wrong, or covering CCR’s “Around the Bend.”

The Georgia Lottery Board appears to be doing better in its search for a new Lottery President:

Debbie Dlugolenski Alford, who heads the governor’s Office of Planning and Budget and serves on the Lottery Board, is expected to replace Margaret DeFrancisco as president of one of the country’s most successful lotteries.

Fulton County Commissioners may want to work on their “people skills” as they may have to deal directly with state legislators after rejecting contracts for state and federal lobbyists.

In past sessions of the General Assembly, Fulton has spent tens of thousands of dollars on lobbyists to push back against Republican efforts to restructure the county’s government or to allow the northern cities to break off into a new Milton County.

For the session that opens in January, state Rep. Lynne Riley, R-Johns Creek, is expected to push for a tax cap that could see county taxes go down. House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, who represents Buckhead, wants city governments to take over some county services — possibly libraries and senior centers — which could strain city governments that have their own tax caps and can’t raise taxes without referendums.

The lobbyist proposals ran into trouble Wednesday when Commissioner Robb Pitts accused county staffers of manipulating the bid process so that the spouse of the county’s current hired lobbyist would get the $160,0000 state-level contract. He called the proposed $85,000 federal contract “wasteful and useless,” and Vice Chairwoman Emma Darnell questioned why the county should pay a firm to communicate with members of Congress whom she bumps into in the grocery store.

Questions were raised about why the county should pay for outside lobbying firms when it also has an in-house Intergovernmental Affairs Division that’s spending more than $600,000 this year. It’s also part of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, which lobbies for the state’s counties.

Click HereMarietta Daily Journal interviewed Cobb County legislators about the renewal of the hospital bed tax. Here’s the MDJ’s tally so far:

Senator Judson Hill (R) No
State Rep. Ed Setzler (R) No
State Rep. Don Parsons (R) Probable Yes
State Rep. Rich Golick (R) Undecided
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R) leaning No
State Rep. Sam Teasley (R) leaning No
State Rep. Elect Charles Gregory (R) leaning No
State Rep. Matt Dollar (R) Undecided

Cobb County Superior Court Judge Dorothy Robinson retires at the end of December after 40 years on the bench.

Georgia Polling Report

At noon today, we’ll release results of a poll of Georgia voters taken last night on the Presidential election. Stay tuned to the website. Media members working on deadline can email me for advance copies.

Mitt Romney was the clear winner of Wednesday night’s Presidential debate, according to polls of debate watchers. Also according to Mitt Romney.

CBS News, which as in past elections and presidential addresses used the GfK’s KnowledgePanel representative Internet panel to interview 523 uncommitted voters who watched the debate (with a reported margin of error of +/- 4 percent). Its sample included voters who were either totally undecided before the debate or who were leaning to a candidate, but said they may still change their minds.

Respondents were unambiguous about who won. By a 46 percent to 22 percent margin, the poll’s uncommitted voters said they thought Romney won. After the debate, 56 percent said they had a better opinion of Romney, 11 percent had a worse opinion and 32 percent reported their opinion was unchanged.

CNN, which polled 430 adults who watched the debate and who had agreed to be interviewed after participating in an earlier CNN poll, also found clear evidence of a Romney victory. The survey found that 67 percent thought Romney won the debate, while only 25 percent said they thought Obama won. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they were more likely to vote for Romney after watching the debate, 18 percent for Obama and 47 percent said neither.

Democracy Corps, a Democratic firm, conducted a debate group with Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, with 45 independent voters in Denver. Among the group, 42 percent said Romney won, while 20 percent thought Obama won, and 38 percent said neither candidate did. One-third said they were likely to vote for Obama, compared with 31 percent before the debate. Forty-four percent said they backed Romney, up from 27 percent pre-debate.

Nate Silver says the real impact of the debate won’t be seen in polls yet.

It’s just too soon answer the question of what impact Wednesday night’s debate in Denver, which instant-reaction polls judged to be a clear win for Mitt Romney, will have on the head-to-head polls.

For the time being, a better approach to estimate Mr. Romney’s post-debate bounce may be to compare the historical relationshipbetween instant-reaction polls of the debate with their eventual effect on the horse-race numbers. That technique would estimate Mr. Romney gaining a net of 2.2 percentage points on Mr. Obama. But this calculation has a margin of error as well — about 3.5 percentage points in estimating the change in the margin between the candidates.

The most likely range of outcomes, however, is Mr. Romney gaining from one and four points on Mr. Obama once the effects of the debate are fully accounted for.

Of course, there is a huge difference depending on where Mr. Romney might fall within that range. If he adds four points, the race will be very nearly tied.

If he gains just one point, conversely, the situation will look rather poor for him: he’ll have had what was almost certainly the best night of his campaign, and not gotten very much out of it.

The National Election Pool, which does exit polling for the AP and major television networks will not survey Georgia voters on November 6th. Georgia is one of 19 states that are excluded.

Voters in the excluded states will still be interviewed as part of a national exit poll, but state-level estimates of the partisan, age or racial makeups of electorates won’t be available as they have been since 1992. The lack of data may hamper election night analyses in some states, and it will almost certainly limit post-election research for years to come.

A growing number of voters casting early ballots has added to the complexity of carrying out surveys in 50 states, the District of Columbia and nationally. In more and more states it has become crucial to supplement in-person precinct polling with relatively costly telephone interviews in order to achieve representative samples.

This year, exit pollsters are set to carry out phone polls in 15 states, about half of all states covered, and increase the sample sizes of those polls by 32 percent, according to Merkle. Moreover, the continued rise in the number of voters using cellphones also bumps up the price of phone surveys, another challenge motivating the changes for 2012.

Here is a list of the states that will be excluded from coverage: Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Comparing this list with the election map, reveals how carefully the exit poll planners allocated resources. All 19 of the states with no exit polls are classified as either “solid Obama” or “solid Romney,” and there is only one “toss-up” gubernatorial or U.S. Senate race not on the list: the competitive North Dakota match-up of Heidi Heitkamp and Rick Berg.

The National Election Pool still plans to use phone polling in those states in which it will not be exit polling.

If you’re completely obsessed with interested in polling, you might be interested in my thoughts on weighting, a statistical practice that has come under fire as a source of perceived bias against Republicans by mainstream media polls.

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.

Mike Jacobs is 2-for-2 against the current candidates for Mayor of Brookhaven

Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-City of Brookhaven), who is the legislative architect of the incorporation of the new City of Brookhaven, has met both of the candidates for Mayor of Brookhaven in previous campaigns, defeating them in state house races.

In 2010, Jacobs (R) trounced Democrat Sandy Murray by a 66-34 margin. Murray has qualified to run for Mayor of Brookhaven, despite having opposed the cityhood effort. This also means that she will not be the Democratic candidate for State House District 80 against Jacobs this year, despite having qualified for the seat.

In 2004, Jacobs was the Democratic nominee against J. Max Davis, then-Republican nominee, now candidate for Mayor of Brookhaven. Jacobs won a narrow victory over Davis that year with a 51.2-48.8 margin.