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.”

Governor Nathan Deal: Georgia will not setup state healthcare exchange

From the press release:

Governor cites unknown costs, lack of flexibility in Obamacare’s federal regulations

Gov. Nathan Deal today informed the Obama administration that Georgia will not set up its own health care exchange, citing Obamacare’s one-size fits all approach and the high cost that the law places on states.

“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.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 28, 2012

“25422” is a black lab mix who will be available for adoption beginning Monday, July 2d from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. He is a medium-sized, friendly boy.

His odds aren’t very good, as it’s the time of year when shelters are full and euthanasia may be a daily occurrence. He also suffers from “black dog syndrome,” which means that black-coated dogs are often passed over for adoption and end up euthanized.

Not everyone can adopt or foster a dog, but many of us can donate money, time, or dog items to the rescues that work every day to save dogs from public animal shelters.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Because I have psychic abilities when it comes to Georgia politics, I can tell you that the biggest political news of today will come sometime after 10 AM and will originate in Washington, DC.

The Supreme Court is widely expected to release its opinion or opinions in the Obamacare case today. Starting around 10 AM, I’ll be hanging out at the SCOTUSblog live blog to get the news as soon as it’s available.

In anticipation of the decision, the SCOTUSblog main site has a plain English summary of the issues in the case. The Wall Street Journal has a good discussion of what’s at stake in the case.

If you have some free time this morning and want to await the decision with others, the Atlanta Tea Party will hold a “Countdown to Obamacare Decision” at the State Capitol on the Washington Street side on Thursday, June 28th from 9:30 AM to Noon. Tea party supporters are asked to join and bring signs, but signs must not have wooden or wire stakes.

Governor Deal will hold a press conference at 2 PM on Thursday to address the Supreme Court’s ruling.

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration reform law, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals is asking parties in the lawsuit over Georgia’s House Bill 87 to submit briefs discussing the effect of the ruling on the Georgia case.

Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice made good on its threat to sue the State of Georgia and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, challenging the state’s compliance with the  Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), which requires that ballots for elections to federal office be sent 45 days in advance of the election. Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division said:

“Our uniformed service members and overseas citizens deserve a full opportunity to participate in all elections of our nation’s leaders including runoff elections for federal office in states where they are held. This suit seeks relief to ensure that Georgia’s military and overseas voters, many of whom are members of our armed forces and their families serving our country around the world, will be provided the opportunity guaranteed by UOCAVA to receive, mark and return their ballots in the upcoming primary runoff election, as well as all future federal runoff elections.”

Republican State Rep. Mark Hamilton finds the DOJ’s timing suspect.

In the fall of 2010, more than 1,900 Georgia voters serving in the military or living overseas sought applications for absentee ballots in electronic format for the first time.

Georgia’s military and overseas voters were able to access their absentee ballot electronically 45 days prior to election day. To access their ballot, these voters logged on to a secure website, printed and cast their ballot, and then mailed them back to their county election office. This saved weeks of time previously lost to delivery of blank ballots by mail. The system that delivered these blank ballots was developed in-house within the Georgia secretary of state’s office at no additional cost to Georgia’s taxpayers.

Georgia was one of the first states in the nation to be in full compliance with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act through passage of Georgia House Bill 1073, signed into law in 2010 by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.

However, it now appears that a politically motivated U.S. Department of Justice is willing to put this system into question just one month before our state’s primary election.

I cannot believe that this is an earnest attempt to expand voting opportunities for our men and women in uniform. Georgia has an incredible track record on this issue, and even issues write-in runoff ballots with all absentee ballots to ensure that every Georgia citizen has the opportunity to vote in every election in which they choose to vote.

In fact, this system was developed with the Department of Justice in 2005 and has served our state well since then. Can anyone imagine developing a plan with a third party only to have them sue you over it years later? That’s exactly what the Department of Justice is doing with this lawsuit. It doesn’t inspire a whole lot of trust and confidence in our federal government, does it?

I am shocked by the suggestion that the United State Department of Justice would make politically-motivated decisions. Shocked.

Greg Davis is also shocked at anyone questioning Attorney General Eric Holder’s devotion to following upholding the law whether he want to or not.

I just had to find out why U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder would want to deny our soldiers and other overseas voters the right to vote.

In the first place, this is not Georgia’s first run-in with the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. In 2004, the U.S. government successfully challenged Georgia’s failure to provide adequate time for voters overseas to participate in runoff elections. Obama cannot be blamed for that one.

Let’s fast-forward to this year. Federal law says that all absent uniformed services and overseas voters are to have ballots 45 days before the day of the election. When Rep. Hamilton claims that Georgia follows the law, this is only partially true. For runoff elections, only 14 days would be possible. If one reads his column closely, Rep. Hamilton does not dispute this. Instead, he blames the Justice Department for not bringing up the subject earlier.

Click Here

Yet again, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers has drawn the ire of the University System of Georgia with his political signs that depict the UGA and Georgia Tech mascots.

Georgia Board of Regents Vice Chancellor for External Affairs Tom Daniel confirmed to the Ledger-News Friday that he has asked Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers’ alma mater, Georgia Tech, as well as the University of Georgia, to pen letters to Rogers asking him to quit using those schools’ patented sports team logos on campaign signs. All university system patented logos are the property of the Board of
Regents.

Rogers’ campaign spokesman Robert Trim said the senator would not have any more signs printed with the logos.

Trim said the signs with the logos were printed for a special event a few years ago, and the only ones in circulation are ones people took home with them.

“We distributed (those signs) over two years ago, and we are honored support for Sen. Rogers is consistent and long-lasting,” Trim said.  “We think the recycling of signs from former events represents conservative values.”

I note that Trim didn’t say anything about taking the questioned images down from the Dawgs for Chip Rogers or Jackets for Chip Rogers facebook pages.

Here’s a new link to a different story reporting on the trademark issue.

Speaking of yardsigns, CBS Atlanta asked the tough questions of judicial candidates in Gwinnett County about why some of their signs were in rights-of-way along roads. As we all know, the Georgia DOT doesn’t like political signs in their rights-of way.

Seriously, CBS Atlanta, you were in Gwinnett County, where a sitting County Commissioner recently pled guilty to federal bribery charges, where another former Commissioner is under indictment for allegedly taking a million dollars in cash for zoning decisions, and everyone is wondering which current or former Commissioner will be indicted next, and this is the best you could come up with?

The American Civil Liberties Union will represent the Ku Klux Klan as it seeks to adopt a highway.

The Klan was recently denied the chance to clean up part of Route 515 in Union City.  Seagroves says that the decision to exclude the group from  a purely voluntary program appears to be based on a the viewpoint of group members, which she says is a clear violation of the first amendment.

“Any decision about participating in a public program has to be content neutral, and when our department of transportation decided to close the program to a group because its views and opinions were offensive to some, we consider that a violation of the first amendment.”

Speaking of the Klan, yesterday I inadvertantly wrote that Roger Garrison, under fire for pictures showing him in a KKK robe and mask 25-30 years ago, is Sheriff of Forsyth County. That was a mistake. Garrison is Sheriff of Cherokee County.

Muscogee County Superior Court’s Chief Judge John Allen is stepping down as Chairman of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, but will remain on the Commission as a member.

“Judge Allen leaves an indelible mark on the judiciary, which he has served so honorably,” said Jeff Davis, the commission’s director. “Judge Allen has led the commission through a flurry of increased activity over the last few years, steadfastly ensuring that those who aspire to be judges respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust.”

Allen will take office as President of the Rotary Club of Columbus.

Georgia Public Broadcasting brings us the surprising news that a Democrat Wright McLeod is the front-runner in the Republican Primary for the Twelfth Congressional District. The Augusta Chronicle brings us the not-so-surprising news that the Federal Elections Commission is seeking records from McLeod’s campaign.

The Federal Election Commission is asking 12th Congressional District Republican candidate Wright McLeod to provide additional information about his campaign spending or face an audit or penalty.

In a June 18 letter to McLeod campaign treasurer Cameron Nixon, FEC Senior Campaign Finance Analyst Robin Kelly says McLeod’s April quarterly report did not state the purpose for several disbursements of campaign funds, including those characterized only as “payroll.”

“It’s time that Wright McLeod finally tells the truth by admitting he made major mistakes, including stealing our campaign’s donor list,” Paradise said Tuesday. “The FEC has confirmed what we’ve believed for some time – Wright McLeod is in clear violation of the law.”

McLeod campaign spokeswoman Holly Croft called the letter, which has a response due date of July 23, “a routine administrative request” and pointed to similar FEC requests for additional information made earlier this year to Allen and another Republican candidate, state Rep. Lee Anderson.

Both letters, posted on the FEC.gov Web site, cite the candidates’ failures to include more specific information about some donors’ employers besides “requested” or “self.”

Asked whether the letter verified Paradise’s complaint, which McLeod officials have dismissed as a frivolous “hatchet job,” Croft said “there could be some overlap” between Allen’s complaint and the FEC letter.

The dispute between Georgia Southern and a media company owned at least partially by Senator Cecil Staton is in the news again, just in time to gratuitously attempt to extort embarrass Staton by using his political position as a weapon in a business dispute.

All the correspondence from Georgia Eagle Media to Georgia Southern about this dispute has come from Staton.

Georgia Eagle’s statement calls the disagreement a “contract dispute” with Georgia Southern Athletics “not connected personally or individually with Cecil Staton.”

The company added, “Were it not the case that Mr. Staton is state senator and in a contested primary election in five weeks, we are confident this legal dispute between two business entities would not warrant the attention of Georgia Eagle Media, Inc’s media competitors.”

That last phrase refers to Georgia Eagle Media’s television and radio operation, WRWR, in Warner Robins.

Staton has previously released extensive documentation of the dispute that appear to raise legitimate issues about the amount of money owed. Also, Staton’s company attempted to make a partial payment of money that was not disputed, but the University refused.

Sock puppets appear to be making their first appearance in Middle Georgia, as a Staton supporter named Brian Zorotovich is accused of sending emails trashing Staton’s opponent from an email account bearing the name Beth Merkelson Mal Reynolds.

“Zorotovich has attempted to distort the facts of all the circumstances involving these financial challenges,” said Price.”His actions, rather than speaking negatively of my character, actually speak negatively of his own.”

For his part, Staton told the Reporter on Monday that he had no clue who Beth Merkelson Zorotovich is. He said he tries to avoid “that stuff” as much as he can. “It just raises the blood pressure,” said Staton. “I don’t have time for childishness,” said Staton. “I am the senator and I will continue to do that job. I think that’s about all they (Price) have. They haven’t been able to do anything else. They haven’t raised any money. We’re just doing we’re supposed to do.”

Grovetown City Council member Sonny McDowell was indicted in an Alabama federal court for bribery.

“Sonny” McDowell, who was arraigned June 15, is accused of offering a kickback to a former employee of the Alabama Department of Public Safety in 2007.

McDowell and James E. Potts, of Montgomery, Ala., face a four-count indictment alleging bribery related to a program receiving federal funds, according to a statement from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Alabama.

Part of Potts’ job in July 2007 involved helping the Alabama Department of Human Resources solicit bids for an electronic fingerprint system. McDowell is owner of Southern Detention Technologies Inc., which sells fingerprint machines.

The indictment accuses McDowell of offering and Potts of accepting a $1,700 check and $1 for every fingerprint scan run related to the DHR, according to the statement.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 25, 2012


Today, we have four lab mix puppies from two different litters who are available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. 25271 and 25352 (top row, l to r) are baby girls, while 25066 (lower left) is a girl and 25066 (lower right) is boy; I think that’s just kibble crumbs on 25066′s face. The Gwinnett Animal Shelter is closed on Mondays, but open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 AM to 4 PM and Sunday from noon to 4 PM and is located at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville.

Today might be the day for Obamacare decision from US Supreme Court
At yesterday’s Fulton County Republican Party Barbecue, Attorney General Sam Olens discussed the impending Obamacare decision by the United States Supreme Court that may be handed down today. Here’s a video shot while Sam was in Atlanta between court days during the appeal before the Supreme Court in which he discusses the lawsuit.

Olens makes three main points about the lawsuits. First, in terms of the structure of our government, “The case is about whether the court is going to view the Constitution the way the founders viewed it, which is that the federal government has limited, enumerated powers or whether Congress can pass whatever Congress wants.”

Second, there is not only the individual mandate at stake, but also the expansion of Medicaid. “We already know that (fewer) doctors will accept Medicaid. What happens when we have a 35 percent increase in the number of Georgians that are then on Medicaid?  It is an additional $2.5 billion cost (to Georgia) over the decade.”

Finally, the results will be more complex than a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Either the individual mandate or the Medicaid expansion could be held unconstitutional, but the issue of severability will determine whether the rest of the Obamacare act is thrown out or retained.

I’ll be hanging out watching the live blog at Scotusblog by Scotusblog.com which many consider to be the definitive source for news of Supreme Court decisions.

The Supreme Court is also considered likely to hand down a decision on Arizona’s immigration reform law, which might have consequences for Georgia’s immigration reform statute, HB 87.

I’m not sure what I think about Sam’s new NASCAR sponsorship look, but below is a banner from one of our sponsors, R. Thompson & Associates, LLC, who specialize in filing solutions for candidates and elected officials. Please tell them I sent you.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

NPR ran a story this morning on Georgia’s cross-state lines insurance sales law, noting that no providers have applied to sell out-of-state insurance in Georgia. Sponsor State Rep. Matt Ramsey thinks that insurers are waiting until an Obamacare decision before making plans.

Friday evening, the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta held a nonpartisan “Stand Up” rally against Obamacare’s health care mandates as applied to religious institutions.

Also at the Fulton County GOP Barbecue yesterday, a straw poll was held on T-SPLOST. The results were 53 “No” votes, 7 “Yes” vote, 2 “Undecided” and 2 “Hell No!” That’s nearly an 8-to-1 advantage for opponents of the tax increase.

Last week, the United States Department of Justice sent a letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, taking issue with Georgia’s runoff laws and threatening a lawsuit.

It claims violations of a federal law that requires absentee ballots to be sent to military and overseas residents at least 45 days before federal elections, including runoffs.

The letter threatens a lawsuit if the matter isn’t resolved quickly.

Georgia’s state primary runoff is scheduled for three weeks after the state primary election, and Georgia’s general election runoff is scheduled for four weeks following the general election.

Secretary Kemp fired back in a statement sent out late Friday:

If the DOJ was earnest, they would have previously contacted us about their concerns rather than sending a notice of a lawsuit a month before the Primary Election.  Georgia is literally in the middle of the 2012 Primary. Currently, ballots have been printed and absentee voters (military and overseas included) are voting, while the DOJ is attempting to twist the State’s arm into agreeing to a consent decree, the terms of which would place unnecessary stresses on the elections administration process, before even filing the lawsuit.

The DOJ has not previously expressed concerns about Georgia’s compliance with the MOVE Act, or Georgia’s ability to transmit absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters.  In fact, the DOJ approved Georgia’s timing for run-off elections in 2005 after the General Assembly altered prior election laws.

Representative Mike Jacobs, (R-Brookhaven) notes that the deadline to appeal your property tax assessment in Fulton County is June 28 and DeKalb County is July 13. While deadline may be different in other Counties, the write-up Jacobs has on how to appeal your property tax assessment is excellent and should be applicable everywhere.

Hall County is one of the last counties that still elect a County Surveyor; this year the only candidate for the unpaid job is Republican Jason Lourie.

Cherokee Sheriff wore KKK robe, mask to party 25 years ago

WSB-TV reports that they have been given a photo of Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison wearing what appears to be a KKK robe and hood to a costume party in about 1987, and that Garrison says he never had any connection to the Ku Klux Klan.

http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/sheriff-says-kkk-costume-stupid-mistake/nPcqp/Photo from WSB-TV purported to be Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison circa 1987

“I don’t deny it wasn’t stupid, looking back now, but there again I say what 21- or 22-year-old in this world hasn’t made some stupid mistakes?” Garrison told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer, who obtained the photos from a source who wished to remain anonymous.

Garrison is up for re-election this year, and is facing primary opposition next month.

“It’s purely political,” he said, “This is just the lowest of the low to infer whatever they’re attempting to infer there.”

Garrison said he and a friend were dressed as characters from a scene in the movie “Blazing Saddles” and that he has never espoused any of the KKK’s beliefs.

“I don’t think anyone who knows me is going to think anything of this, but it’s just sickening and it hurts my family,” said Garrison.

“Everybody knows everything about my life. I would just ask that they look at my honor and my integrity and the things we’ve done for this sheriff’s office,” said Garrison.

WSB notes that Garrison’s opponent in the Republican primary says he was made aware of the photo but chose not to make an issue of it, and his opponent was not the person who brought it to their attention.

Garrison’s opponent, David Waters, said someone showed him the photos a year ago, but he chose to ignore them and focus on his own campaign.

“It is a bad judgment call, and (that) type of clothing represents hate, and I certainly don’t want any part of that,” said Waters.

Waters was not the source who provided the photos to Channel 2 Action News.

I’m not sure what I think about this yet, but I’ll offer a few points.

First, as far as Garrison’s opponent, I think it was a good call on his part to not make an issue of something that Garrison did 25 years ago before he was Sheriff. In 1987, I was 16 years old and a normal, stupid, 16-year old male. Probably did some things I wouldn’t do now, and I think most people are like that as they mature.

Second, here’s my rule of thumb with respect to negative information about political opponents: if it happened in college or earlier, I probably wouldn’t use it if they’re, say, 40 years or older, unless it was rape, murder, or something of that level.

Third, as a voter, I give less weight to past actions that were simply in bad taste or bad personal choices, the further in the past they are. Garrison’s point about judging a stupid thing he did 25 years ago against his long career in public service is apt.

On the other hand, if it was twenty years ago, and Garrison has been Sheriff 20 years with a law enforcement career before that, it’s likely that the event occurred while he was a law enforcement officer professionally. That makes it a little bit more appalling, but doesn’t diminish the above points.

Finally, I note that in 1987, in the counties north of Metro Atlanta, and at that time, I don’t think Cherokee would have been considered part of Metro Atlanta, the KKK had recently been in the news in Forsyth County.

In January and February, violence erupted in Forsyth County when KKK members confronted a march led by Hosea Williams, and later staged a counterdemonstration to Williams’s follow-up march.

Given the political climate at the time, it would have been hard for any law enforcement officer wearing a Klan robe and hood for any reason to not be making an overt political statement.

[I also want to note that it appeared at the time, and still does, that most of the people actively causing trouble in Forsyth County in 1987 were not from there. According to the U.S. Census, Forsyth County is estimated in 2011 to have had 175,511 residents, of whom approximately 4563, or 2.6% were black, and there racial tension doesn't appear to be worse than anywhere else.]

Events

Join the Gwinnett Republican Party on Monday, June 25th from 7-9:30 PM at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center auditorium for a free Judicial Forum. Candidates in each race will answer questions posed to them by former WGCL TV reporter Mike Moore. One suggestion if you’re attending: ask the candidate how long they wrote on their qualifying papers they have lived continuously in Gwinnett County. You’ll be shocked at one of the answers.

Fundraiser for Senator David Shafer, with Governor Nathan Deal, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, on Tuesday, June 26th from 5 to 7 PM at St Ives Country Club in Johns Creek.

On Wednesday from 5 to 7 PM, State Rep. Mike Jacobs will hold a fundraiser at Uncle Julio’s Mexican Restaurant at Perimeter, 1140 Hammond Drive (at Peachtree Dunwoody) in Sandy Springs.

Ends & Pieces

Chandler Massey, the son of former Georgia Secretary of State Lewis Massey and grandson of longtime poultry industry lobbyist Abit Massey, won a daytime Emmy award for his role on “Days of Our Lives.”

This weekend marked the 40th Anniversary of the release of the film “Deliverance,” which introduced North Georgia’s rivers to audiences nationwide. When rafting, remember to keep an ear out for banjos, and if you hear them, paddle faster.

Transformers losers lovers gathered in Savannah this weekend for a convention.

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