Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for January 23, 2013 – The “Dixie Chicken Edition”

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29761 (male, top), 29762 (male, second), and 29763 (female, third) are white Lab mix puppies who are available for adoption beginning Friday from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

It’s a crisis situation at many animal shelters across the state as new dogs, puppies, cats and kittens are brought it. If you’ve been considering adopting or fostering, today is the day.

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Gwinnett2965529655 is a black, middle-aged Lab mix. Just old enough to start mellowing, but with his best years ahead, if someone will rescue or foster him. He’s available today from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

MurraySixPuppies

 

The six puppies above were found outside, alone, in the freezing cold this week. They are at the Murray County Animal Shelter and need immediate foster or rescue, or they will be euthanized on Friday in the pre-dawn hours.

MurrayThreeBoxerPuppiesThese three boxer-mix puppies are bouncy fun, and are also in need of immediate foster or rescue from Murray County Animal Shelter.

Shane Wilson lost a leg in a motorcycle crash five years ago, and more recently, he lost his service dog, Lucy, when she jumped out of the bed of his pickup truck. Lesson one: dogs don’t belong in pickup truck beds when underway. Some folks found her roadside near a Cracker Barrel and returned her. Lesson two: always keep dog treats handy.

The friends were getting breakfast at the Cracker Barrel in Commerce when they saw Lucy. They walked down the exit ramp to get to her.

“We pulled out the treats and she just let me put the leash around her neck,” Davis said.

When Scoggins called him to say that she found Lucy, he was leery because he has had so many false hopes over the past six days.

Wilson told Scoggins to hold a dog treat up and say “Lucy, speak.” She did and Lucy barked. “I heard her bark and I said I’m on the way and I kind of hung up on her,” Wilson said.

“He was so happy, he was hysterical,” Davis said. “He immediately knew and said ‘stay right there, I’m coming’.”

The Exchange Club of Albany will hold its first AKC Southern Heritage Hunt & Show, which is open to all coonhounds and their owners, after a national coonhound event held in Albany for twenty-five years, was moved to Mississippi.

Both the dog show and hunt are “world qualifying,” AKC officials state, with winners cleared to move forward to the World Hunt Championship or 2013 World Show.

While secondary to the main attractions, there will be an aspect to the show, Brown said, that was not included for the UKC events: Malaysian Semara chickens. According to Brown, the birds are small — less than 19 ounces — colorful and they “kind of strut” when they walk.

Here’s your morning music treat.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The Special Election runoff in Senate District 11 in the lower-left hand corner of Georgia is taking a turn for the nasty. Jim Galloway notes that abortion has become an issue in the contest:

Over the long weekend, Georgia Right to Life dipped into the race with an email that included this:

“Dr. Dean Burke has not been endorsed by the Georgia Right to Life PAC or the National Right to Life Committee PAC. The NRLC PAC does not make state endorsements and its state affiliate – GRTL PAC – has only endorsed Mr. Keown. Any claims to the contrary are false.”

Political consultant Mark Rountree, working for Burke, says there’s no substantive difference between the two candidates on the issue of abortion. Local conversation, he says, has focused more on the $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers. Burke has pledged support for that limit, Rountree said, while Keown has not.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the internet, anonymous cowards are suggesting that Burke is an abortionist and appear willing to lie to make the hit stick. It now appears to be the case that in Georgia Republican politics, an OB/GYN will always be labeled an abortionist whether it’s true or not. Just ask Dr. Carla Roberts.

Republican Scot Turner, who came in first with more than 48% of votes cast in the Special Election for House District 21, met political consultant Brian Laurens in a debate, and Turner claims victory.

“I feel confident that the voters in HD 21 saw a clear difference between the two candidates for this race tonight. As candidates, we have a very important obligation to present our values, understanding, and plans to fix what is broken in state government. I provided a message to the voters assembled with the clear choice to reform our ethics laws, implement economically-friendly tax reforms, and return the legislature to the citizens of Georgia with term limits. Those who participated in this public debate responded with overwhelming support, and I’m humbled by those responses.

“The serious issues facing our state and county all revolve around a cornerstone issue: fixing our broken government. On the one hand, my opponent gave his view of government, which maintains the status quo. I gave voters a vision for the future; a future where government serves the people and not special interests.”

Incidentally, today is Scot Turner’s birthday. You can wish him a happy one by donating online to his campaign, as long as you are a Georgia resident or business and not a lobbyist or PAC.

Another way of wishing him a happy birthday, if you live in House District 21, is to go vote early today in the February 5th runoff. As of yesterday morning, only 28 early votes had been cast.

“It’s extremely slow,” [Election Supervisor Janet] Munda added. “It looks like we may hit five percent this time.”

Munda was referring to the projection she originally predicted for the Jan. 8 special election for both the House and the Georgia Senate District 21 seats. The county ended up seeing a 10 percent turnout for that election.

Voters in the run-off will choose between Republican candidates Scot Turner and Brian Laurens, who came in first and second respectively in the January special election for the house seat.

Early voting started last Wednesday and will continue Monday through Friday through Feb. 1.

Voters who reside in the district, which encompasses Holly Springs, portions of BridgeMill, south Canton and parts of southeast Cherokee, can cast ballots between 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Albert L. Stone Elections Building at 400 East Main Street in Canton.

No voting will be held on Monday Feb. 4, and voters in the district will cast their ballots at 11 precincts in the district on Feb. 5.

The Bainbridge City Council seat vacated by Dean Burke in order to run for Senate District 11 in the Special Election Runoff on February 5th will remain vacant until November 5th, when it is filled along with two other council seats and the office of Mayor in the Bainbridge general election.

Former State Rep. Sean Jerguson led in campaign contributions in his campaign for Georgia Senate District 21, which opponent Brandon Beach won.

Governor Nathan Deal presented his budget to the Joint Budget Hearing yesterday.

Three percent cuts across the board, and slightly more funding for the state pre-K program, the HOPE scholarship, and juvenile justice reform.

He also continued his push to renew a hospital tax aimed at shoring up the state Medicaid program.

“I think it is critical,” said Deal. “We cannot afford to have a $700 million hole in our Medicaid budget,” said Deal.

Otherwise, the governor’s budget projects 4.8 percent revenue growth in 2014. That’s compared to the 3.9 growth seen this year.

If the revenue projection holds true, Georgia in 2014 would be back to where it was at its 2007 peak, before the recession.

House Appropriations Chair Terry England said the numbers are reason for cautious optimism, but warned the state isn’t out of the woods yet.

“The problem with that is we’re a larger state than we were in 2007 so there’s more people needing more services and resources, so even though you have that growth, the demand is still greater than it was in 2007.”

Accordingly, the 2014 budget includes increased funding for education and healthcare, but most would be used to simply keep up with population growth.

Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Hill said ultimately the final budget won’t veer too far from the governor’s recommendations.

“In years where you’re spending a lot of new money, there might be more needs and more wants than there are dollars, but we have such a lean budget to begin with, I don’t know what we’d have to fight over.”

Here’s the TL;DR version:

“We have reduced per capita spending of state dollars for our citizens,” [Deal] said. “Using 2012 dollars, we are spending money at a rate of 17 percent less than we did a decade ago. And we now have 9,000 fewer state employees than we did five years ago.”

The Georgia State Fiscal Economist also presented predictions.

Georgia’s economy should see slow but steady growth over the next few years as the job and housing markets continue to improve, the state’s main economist told lawmakers Tuesday.

Heaghney said that tax collections — an indication of the state of the economy — will be up 3.9 percent the rest of fiscal 2013, which ends June 30. The economy will pick up during the second half of the year and revenue should increase 4.9 percent next fiscal year, allowing the state to add about $550 million in spending, he said.

Heaghney told legislators that the state’s job growth is outpacing the national growth rate, and that “housing appears to have turned the corner, both nationally and in Georgia.”

Georgia is seeing an increase in information technology, business services, manufacturing and transportation jobs.

“We’d expect growth to pick up in the middle of 2013 and then accelerate the rest of the year,” he said. “In 2014, we should see much more rapid growth than we’ve seen prior to this year.”

Higher taxes, a sluggish global economy and the federal debt crisis will continue to weigh on the economy, he said, dampening consumer spending and adding uncertainty to the equation.

“This all creates an environment where there is still a lot of economic uncertainty,” Heaghney said. “We try to plan for that, but there are a lot of different ways the economy could move.

Part of the $19.8 billion dollar budget will be $4.3 million for the State Archives.

Supporters are pushing for an additional $1.5 million to expand public access to the state’s important and historical records dating to at least 1733, saying the additional money would reopen the archives from two to five days a week.

Gov. Deal’s budget will also allocate funds to implement criminal justice reforms from the last Session, and possible changes to juvenile justice this year.

He’s asking for $11 million for so-called accountability courts that offer an alternative for drug abusers, the mentally ill and others.

He also wants $4 million for a regional detention center for young offenders and a new youth development campus.

Today’s budget hearings will include the Departments of Correction, Juvenile Justice, Transportation, Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Labor and Economic Development. The agenda for the Joint Budget Hearings is available by clicking here. This link should have live video of the Hearings later today.

Retailers in the three regions that approved the T-SPLOST should start collecting the extra penny sales tax.

A local clothing boutique visited Friday by NBC 26 is still ringing up its merchandise the old fashioned way.

“We write up all the tickets by hand and then we add up the totals and the tax with a calculator,” Alex, a sales associate told NBC 26. She said the store is still charging seven percent sales tax.

“I didn’t know about it until you came in,” another associate said. “I didn’t know it was in effect starting January first. So, I haven’t started using it yet.”

We asked the Georgia Department of Revenue how it informed retailers in regions where the T-SPLOST passed.

“In December, we emailed an informational bulletin concerning T-SPLOST, concerning the TSPLOST going into effect to all businesses that e-file as well as other businesses who have signed up for that specific mailing list,” said Jud Seymour, communications director for the Georgia Department of Revenue.

Seymour said if stores missed the instructional email, they could’ve looked up the information online on the Georgia Department of Revenue’s website.

On December 27, 2012, my oath of office was administered by our Probate Judge (Keith Wood), with the final sentence stating, “. . . and that I will support the Constitution of the United States and of this State, so help me God.”

Therefore, I will fully exercise the power of the Office of Sheriff to protect and defend the Constitutional rights of the citizens of Cherokee County. My position is best stated by fellow Sheriff Tim Muller of Linn County, Oregon in his letter to the President. “We are Americans. We must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals, no matter how heinous the crimes, to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws.”

Along with Sheriff Muller, other sheriffs throughout the country (including Georgia) and I, will not enforce any laws or regulations that negate the constitutional rights of the citizens of Cherokee County.

Nor shall those laws and regulations be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Cherokee County, Georgia.

Commissioner Allen insinuated that some school board members may have benefited personally from deals with outside companies.“The investigation should examine any companies or firms […] doing any business with the BOE [Board of Education] where funds might have been used to directly or indirectly unlawfully benefit certain members of the BOE,” Allen read from prepared remarks.He declined to offer any evidence that would lead federal prosecutors to investigate such a question.“These allegations,” Allen said without specifying or attributing any allegations directly, “must be investigated immediately by a federal authority, as the facts show a possible misuse of federal funds, not to mention state and local money as well.”

The Marietta Daily Journal profiles Jennifer Rippner of Acworth, a member of the new State Charter School Commission.

Georgia Power’s evacuation plan for people living near Plant Vogtle was reviewed by federal regulators.

A study has found that Plant Vogtle’s emergency evacuation plan for people within 10 miles of the nuclear site is adequate. But the study says traffic control points and better highway infrastructure would improve it.

The updated analysis was filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and was posted on the agency’s website last week.

Depending on the weather, time of day and other factors, Southern Nuclear’s consultants’ models found evacuations could take between 90 and 205 minutes.

At the Cobb County Commission meeting last night, a citizen was led out in handcuffs because he preferred to speak anonymously about backyard chickens.

During the first of two public hearings on a proposal to allow chickens on property under 2 acres in size, speakers on both sides of the issue provided emotional appeals to the board.

Banks Wise, 25, of Mableton, said he had planned to attend the board meeting just to listen to what others had to say about various code proposals, including the one on chickens.

But then he stepped up to the lectern to address the commissioners during the public comment period, and board chairman Tim Lee asked him to recite his name.

Wise declined. Lee asked several more times for him to give his name before the police officers escorted him out of the board room, handcuffed him and took him to a lobby elevator.

“The gentlemen was not following the rules of the commission,” Lee said. “I asked him multiple times. He did not, so the officers removed him.”

Wise said two things prompted him to speak to commissioners. One was a comment by a previous public speaker opposed to a code change for chickens. That speaker, Ron Sifen of Vinings, argued that homeowners had certain expectations with the zoning laws in place when they bought their homes. To allow chickens in their neighborhood was, therefore, wrong.

Wise said he wanted to argue that just because a law is on the books, it doesn’t make it constitutional.

“I’m saying that being able to have a chicken was always right. There was just at some point a very bad law,” Wise said.

Another point that bothered him was that Lee demanded that each speaker give his or her name.

Anonymous political speech is a revered tradition among those of us who love America; perhaps Mr. Lee should take a remedial class in the First Amendment.

Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee has also raised the issue that requiring businesses to use the IMAGE immigration verification program may be too unwieldy.

A documentary on urban chicken keepers, called “Mad City Chickens” will be shown in Rome, Georgia, at the Rome Area History Museum at 305 Broad Street on Saturday at 4, 7 and 9 PM.

McHaggee said the film is relevant locally, with the Rome City Commission currently wrestling with the issue of allowing chickens inside the city limits.

“We hope that this film will illustrate some of the issues our city has been discussing,” the couple said in a joint press release. “Furthermore, we hope that this film brings people together for a fun evening of entertainment and camaraderie.”

A supporter of small families owning livestock, McHaggee said she usually gets eggs from Morning Glory Farm in Cedartown and is concerned with the state of some of the breeds of chicken that need space to thrive.

“That’s part of the reason I feel so strongly about this,” she said. “There are some of the American Heritage breeds that are in trouble of becoming extinct.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 28, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The government contends Hurley received two bribes.

Hurley has denied the accusations and maintains his innocence.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for November 27, 2012

Recently, the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter has taken in three litters of puppies, causing a space shortage. This means increasing euthanasia, and all dogs there are at risk. These three pit mix puppies are among those who are available for adoption today.

Also among the dogs at risk at Gwinnett County Animal Shelter are this German Shepherd baby boy with awesome ears, and a senior Pomeranian who deserves to live his sunset years in a loving home.

Between now and December 23d, all dogs and cats at Gwinnett County’s shelter can be adopted for the low cost of $30.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Newt Gingrich left the door open for another presidential run in 2016.

The former Republican presidential candidate and House Speaker said he has not ruled out running for president in 2016 — but first the GOP must take on a “very serious analysis” of what went wrong in 2012, Gingrich said.

“I have no idea at this stage,” Gingrich said, referring to another run for the White House.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says that Georgia might become winnable for Democrats in 2016.

“Georgia is an achievable target for Democrats in 2016,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a frequent Obama surrogate during the campaign. “What you’re going to see is the Democratic party making a drive through the geography from Virginia to Florida.”

That will be easier said than done — particularly when the Democratic nominee is not Obama — but powerful forces in the region are eroding GOP dominance. The trends pose difficulties for a Republican Party shifting toward Dixie since the “Southern strategy” of the Nixon era, which sought to encourage white flight from the Democratic Party.

In Florida, the portion of all votes cast by whites this year fell to 66 percent, down from 73 percent in 2000. In Georgia, the number of white voters declined while African-American registrations increased nearly 6 percent and Hispanic voters grew by 36 percent.

Legislators who represent Clayton County are determined to ensure that their county remains the butt of late-night talkshow humor by defending Sheriff-elect Victor Hill.

From an article by Rhonda Cook at the AJC:

To remove Hill is “totally disrespectful to the voters of Clayton County,” said Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale. “Allow the judicial system to do what they do.”

Rep. Darryl Jordan, D-Riverdale, has drafted a letter asking the governor to leave Hill alone until the criminal case is resolved with a trial.

“It seems to me, governor, that when certain people can’t get their wishes at the voting booths, then they employ raw, unmitigated, egregious and flagrant attacks on the Voting Rights Act,” he wrote. “This is unconscionable. The people of Clayton County are tired of this shabby and condescending treatment from people who don’t even live here.”

From Jim Galloway’s Political Insider:

Once Hill takes his oath of office in January, Gov. Nathan Deal has the option of suspending Hill until his legal issues are resolved. The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association last week recommended the governor take that route, and even suggested a replacement.

[S]tate Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale. “I was appalled and taken aback when I heard the sheriff’s association giving a recommendation for a replacement of our sheriff-elect,” she said. “The voters were crystal clear when they elected [the] sheriff-elect. They were crystal clear when they rejected the former sheriff.”

Seay said the sheriff’s association had acted “prematurely,” and in “total disrespect to the voters in Clayton County.”

Expanding Medicaid would cost the State of Georgia “only” $2.5 billion dollars, according to a story in the Atlanta Journal-Consitution, while allowing the state to cover more residents and bringing in $33 billion in federal money. The only problem? Georgia can’t afford the $2.5 billion, which liberals call a “modest increase in spending.”

Gov. Nathan Deal has said Georgia can’t afford to expand the program, which is already facing a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars, even with the substantial federal help. Deal’s budget office pegs the cost of Obamacare and a Medicaid expansion to the state at $3.7 billion through 2022.

Deal has also expressed concern that the federal government — already facing a $16.3 trillion deficit — won’t hold up its end of the bargain.

Advocates of entitlement programs have long lowballed future costs to taxpayers, Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said.

“Regardless of whether the new costs are $2.5 billion, $4.5 billion or $6.5 billion, the state of Georgia doesn’t have the money to pay for it without a huge tax increase, crowding out all other spending or both,” Robinson said.

“For a modest increase in spending, we get a pretty dramatic increase in coverage,” said Tim Sweeney, a health care policy analyst at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

“Someone thinks it’s free money when it’s not,” he said. “If we go bankrupt, there’s no way to bail out the United States,” said Ron Bachman, a senior fellow at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, an Atlanta-based think tank focused on market-oriented proposals.

Last night, Common Cause held a public forum to discuss financing of a proposed new Atlanta stadium.

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority and the Atlanta Falcons have been negotiating a deal for a potential new stadium for the past two years. The facility, which would cost a minimum of $948 million but is expected to surpass $1 billion, would replace the 20-year-old Georgia Dome.

More than 100 people came to the Monday evening forum organized by Common Cause Georgia, which featured Georgia World Congress Center executive director Frank Poe on the panel.

“Our focus has been to try to get the best deal possible for the authority and the state of Georgia” for a new stadium, Poe said.

Common Cause Georgia board member Wyc Orr, a panelist, said more information is needed on what infrastructure or other costs the city of Atlanta, the state and Fulton County could be responsible for. “Those are critical details that we think should be known in advance,” Orr said.

Georgia Tech associate professor Benjamin Flowers, another panelist, called for more discussion on what the public could get in return for its investment.

A poll commissioned by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in July found that 67 percent of respondents oppose using hotel-motel tax money for the building.

Today, Georgia Power executives will appear before the Georgia Public Service Commission to update the agency on progress and expenses in the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Twice a year, the utility’s executives testify before the commission about the plant’s progress. On Tuesday, they will review expenses from January to June so the commission can determine if they are permissible and should be passed onto customers.

Georgia Power has already reported $900 million in possible cost overruns. But the expenses are the subject of a lawsuit so officials said there won’t be testimony about them Tuesday.

Commission chair Tim Echols says the hearings help decide who should bear added costs.

“Commissioners essentially become the risk-sharing mechanism for consumers,” he said in an interview. “We’re their eyes and ears on that board, making a decision whether things are passed along to them via their electric bill or whether those expenses are born by Southern Company and Georgia Power.”

Mark Williams is a spokesman for Georgia Power.

“The project is progressing well,” he said in an interview. “We are more than one-third of the way through with the construction. There will be some details about the costs — all the costs that have been expended to this point on the project.”

The United States Energy Department is seeking plans for a demonstration project to address nuclear waste storage. The SRS Community Ruse Organization is currently studying whether the Savannah River Site might have a role in a storage solution.

That study, to be completed early next year, is not specifically connected to the recent demonstration project notice, but would certainly explore the site’s possible role in projects involving outside locations or businesses.

“There is a potential that SRS could play a part of it, but we haven’t heard of anything specific to that proposal,” McLeod said, noting that such a demonstration project would likely require participation from a utility-owned, actively operating power reactor.

Walter Jones writes that energy production policy may be shifting at the Georgia Public Service Commission.

What happened is the Georgia Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to endorse efforts by a start-up company to overturn a law, the Territorial Act, that has divided the state for four decades into geographic monopolies for 94 utilities run by cities, rural cooperatives and the giant Georgia Power Co.

The upstart, Georgia Solar Utilities Inc., seeks its own monopoly as a generator of solar power with permission to sell to retail customers. Since it can’t produce electricity when the sun isn’t shining, it would always be dependent on other utilities for supplemental power as well as for transmission, billing and customer support.

The commission vote doesn’t guarantee General Assembly agreement, but it does provide a push.

The commissioner who sponsored the resolution, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, had been in the legislature in 1973 and voted in favor of the Territorial Act.

“I was there in 1973 when the act — legislation was passed,” he said. “Solar wasn’t even in the dictionary, I don’t think, at that time, much less photovoltaic…. It was something that wasn’t anticipated at that time.”

He argued for removing obstacles to consumers who want access to more power generated from renewable sources.

McDonald wasn’t the only veteran policymaker whose vote demonstrated a change of position. Commissioner Doug Everett, a great-grandfather and conservative legislator in the 1990s, also supported McDonald’s resolution.

“You know, everybody in here realizes I’ve always fought solar because I did not think the technology was there for cost effectiveness. But it’s changed, technology has changed,” he said.

The cost of photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight into electricity has plummeted in recent years and by 30 percent in the first six months of this year due to a price war between Chinese producers. The result is solar is becoming competitive without tax breaks, mandates and subsidies from other energy sources, Everett said.

“But something else has changed that disturbs me even more, and very few people mention this. But this (federal) administration has said it’s going to destroy the coal industry,” he said.

The Dougherty County Commission voted to levy a 2% excise tax on energy used in manufacturing.

Votes by Georgia counties on the excise tax, which Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard stressed was a “continuation” of special-purpose local-option sales tax and local-option sales tax funds already being collected by the county, became necessary when the state approved 2012 legislation to phase out the 4 percent energy tax that the states collects from those businesses over the next four years.

“I’d like to reiterate that this is not a new tax on our manufacturers,” District 1 Commissioner Lamar Hudgins said. “We’re voting to continue collecting the local tax.”

Governor Nathan Deal previously said that repeal of the state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing was an important component in attracting new jobs from Caterpillar and Baxter International.

Former Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Fanning Lasseter will report to federal prison next month to begin serving her sentence for accepting bribes in association with rezoning votes.

Lasseter, who was mayor of Duluth for a decade before becoming a county commissioner, will begin her 33-month sentence for bribery Dec. 12 in a Marianna, Fla. prison, according to an order filed in federal court before Thanksgiving.

In the face of a lawsuit challenging Gwinnett County’s funding of Partnership Gwinnett with the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the County Commission may double down with another payment.

This time, though, the county’s annual Partnership Gwinnett agreement — on Tuesday’s zoning hearing agenda — stipulates that the money must go to a new nonprofit set up for the economic development program, keeping the money from mingling with the chamber’s private donations.

“With the need for jobs and business investment, I believe that it is critical we continue to focus on economic development,” Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said Monday, lending her support to the program credited with bringing 12,000 jobs to the county. “I also believe that combining resources and efforts across community segments strengthens Gwinnett County’s position relative to other communities with which we must compete.”

Pat Robertson’s Regent University will continue to pursue federal intellectual property claims against a renamed Georgia Regent University in Augusta.

The University of Georgia wants to aggressively invest in research to move into the elite circle of national research universities. Georgia Tech has received $1.8 million in federal grant money to actually perform research into microbial diversity. Football loyalties aside, which approach do you think will be more welcome in the Appropriations Committee this Session?

For more news on Georgia education issues, visit www.GaNewsDigest.com and look for the Education heading. The website is updated throughout the day and also features sections on Politics, Energy, and Transportation issues.

The consolidation of two hospitals in the Albany area is before the United States Supreme Court as the Federal Trade Commission charges that the merger was anti-competitive.

The justices heard arguments in the federal government’s claim that two private corporations used a public hospital authority to complete a deal that left one company as the owner of the only two hospitals in Albany, Ga. The Federal Trade Commission says the deal violates federal antitrust law.

The question at the high court is whether an exception in antitrust law for actions taken by a state or its agencies — in this case, the hospital authority — shields the transaction from federal concerns.

Lower federal courts allowed Albany’s Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital to buy Palmyra Medical Center from Hospital Corporation of America for $195 million over the FTC’s objection.

Georgia DOT will try to use more small businesses as part of a federal initiative.

Beginning next year, the Georgia Department of Transportation plans to increase efforts to encourage and help small businesses in doing business with the department and its consultants and contractors, state officials said last week.

As part of a federal initiative designed to foster increased nationwide small-business participation in government contracting, DOT plans to promote opportunities for eligible small businesses though its acquisition of materials and professional and technical services, as well as transportation consultant and construction contracts.

The goal of the program will be to facilitate such opportunities “of a size and scope that can reasonably be performed by competing small businesses,” including Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, states a press release from the DOT.

The AJC writes that massive overtime payments to MARTA employees raise safety concerns.

MARTA Police Officer Jeremiah Perdue puts in massive work weeks protecting the transit-riding public. He worked enough overtime to more than triple his pay, taking home nearly $163,000 in the 12 months ending in June.

Perdue, who earned $108,000 in overtime in one year , wasn’t alone in working excessive hours. About 130 police officers and 90 bus drivers boosted their salaries by 50 percent that fiscal period, with 55 officers and 20 drivers nearly doubling their pay. A handful, like Perdue, earned more in overtime than they earned in regular salary, according to records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

While some might applaud such a work ethic, the overtime logged by MARTA bus drivers and police officers raises serious financial and safety concerns for the nation’s ninth-largest transit agency.

MARTA rules allow those employees to work 16 hours straight, but sleep deprivation experts say such schedules impair judgment and make drivers, police officers and others who work in potentially life-threatening situations a danger to both themselves and the public.

I suspect State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-City of Brookhaven), who chairs the legislative committee that oversees MARTA, will raise financial concerns about this as well.

The City of Dunwoody added starting its own school system to its list of legislative priorities for 2013.

“It’s not about the city of Dunwoody and our school system,” said Council [Member] John Heneghan. “It’s about local control and our school system. When you work at the capitol it’s not about a municipality, it’s about what is best for the general populace of the state of Georgia.”

Meanwhile, the left-behinds in North DeKalb are exploring creating yet another city.

The new Briarcliff Woods East Neighborhood Association (BWENA) sponsored the information-only meeting at Oak Grove Methodist Church.

“People underestimate how complicated it is,” former legislator Kevin Levitas, who hosted the meeting, said. “It takes a couple years to get a city up and running. People have to understand they are in for a very long haul, with some heated discussions.”

State Sen. Fran Millar, state Rep. Tom Taylor and former state senator Dan Weber described the process Dunwoody went through before it was incorporated.

The Cobb County Commission will figure out how to dispose of an $18 million dollar surplus; Commission Chair Tim Lee proposed “a plan to allocate the additional money includes paying off debt, rolling back the county’s millage rate by .2 mills and technology upgrades to the county’s court system.”

A wildfire in North Georgia has closed the approach trail for the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.

Ogeechee Riverkeeper Dianna Wedincamp is stepping down to start her own environmental consulting firm.

“She hit the ground running and has gotten us in good position,” said Don Stack, an attorney with Stack & Associates, which represents the Riverkeeper. “She probably decided it’s an appropriate time to take a breath and have a normal life.”

When I read a Savannah Morning News headline that “The hunt is on at Bethesda Academy,” my first thought was that I thought the hunting season for high school students started in December.

Over the last three years students enrolled in the historic school and home for boys have helped clear pine thickets, planted native grasses and converted 400 acres into a lakeside sanctuary for wild birds and the hundreds of quail they raise each year.

Now the public can book guided quail and pheasant hunts at the Bethesda Sanctuary.

They’ll even train your dogs to hunt.

“We’re talking about sporting dogs,” said Tom Brackett, director of the Wildlife Management Program at Bethesda. “We can’t train your French poodle.”

True fact: poodles were bred to retrieve waterfowl.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 24, 2012

One of these little seven-week old pups found a home yesterday with a GaPundit.com reader and I couldn’t be happier. Another reader’s family stepped up and volunteered to foster the other two if enough money can be raised through a rescue organization to pay for their vetting, which will cost $400. If everyone who has written me about how much they enjoy seeing the adoptable dogs or asking how they can help will give $50, $20, or even $5 today, we can save the remaining puppies. They must be saved by Thursday night or they’ll be euthanized on Friday before dawn. Please click here and go to Angels Among Us Rescue’s webpage and donate today with a credit or debit card or PayPal account. When making your donation, please put “GaPundit – Murray County Puppies” in the purpose field.

This boxer puppy will qualify for the “Black Friday Sale” discounted $30 adoption fee on Friday at Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. She’s a friendly little puppy and has five brothers and sisters in the shelter with her, who were found stray and are available for adoption today.

Finally, we bring you one of our favorite kind of dog, a basset hound “low rider” mix. Meet Binkie, a Pit Bull-Basset Hound mix.

Binkie is a spayed female, approximately 2 years old and just over 26 pounds of awesome. She is available for adoption tomorrow from Walton County Animal Services.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Senator Vincent Fort doesn’t want voters to be armed in exchange for voting and has filed a complaint with the Secretary of State’s office alleging that a Cobb business offering a chance to win a Browning rifle or Glock violates Georgia law that prohibits giving people something of value for voting.

Fort says the promotion violates state law prohibiting anyone from offering money or gifts in exchange for voting or registering to vote.

“I sent a letter to the secretary of state this morning, asking him to look into it and put a stop to the raffle,” Fort said. “These billboards are prominently positioned all over the metro area, and I’m surprised the secretary of state didn’t intervene earlier.”

Four years ago, that office put a quick stop to shops offering free coffee and doughnuts to those showing proof that they voted, he said.

(more…)

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 11, 2012

Gwinnett County Animal Shelter runs a “Black Friday Sale” with adoptions of dogs and cats with black or majority-black coats costing only $30, a significant discount over the normal cost of $90 and a probably less expensive than the first set of vaccinations, which all of these dogs have received.
27904 above is described as “a treasure” by volunteers at the shelter, and “likes to retrieve a ball & lets you take it from his mouth. He doesn’t look to have been stray for long – appears well-kept, also he is non-reactive to other dogs. He’s small-statured and an absolute ball of fun! Would make a great companion all-around.” Unfortunately, he’s also listed as “urgent,” which means in danger of euthanasia. If someone adopts him today, a sponsor will cover the difference between the normal price and the “sale” price.

27978 is a black-and-white lab mix, who is a young, friendly female who is available for adoption today from the Gwinnett County Shelter and should be eligible for a discount tomorrow.

27851 is a majority-black German Shepherd male, who is friendly and is available today from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

27733 is a friendly lab mix female who is available for adoption today from Gwinnett.

27904 is a friendly black lab mix male who is available today for adoption from Gwinnett.


Grace is a 3-4 month old Chihuahua who is not eligible for a discount because she’s at Walton County Animal Services, but their adoption fee is only $40 to begin with. We ran her photo yesterday, but are featuring her again because this is such a great photo.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

If you don’t get enough of GOP Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan by watching tonight’s debate, you might want to attend a pair of fundraisers featuring Ryan on October 24th at the Cobb Energy Centre.

Admission to a reception at which the Wisconsin congressman is due is relatively low-priced, just $500 per guest, but the cost for a grip-and-grip and roundtable discussion are considerably higher.

Donors have been asked to contribute or raise at least $10,000 for a photo opportunity with Ryan and $25,000 for a roundtable discussion.

The Romney campaign said Friday it was not immediately apparent if Ryan would hold any public events while in Georgia.

The Gwinnett County GOP will hold a barbecue on Saturday, October 13 beginning at 11 AM. I’ll be in Bainbridge, so will miss it, but if their recent events are any sign, it’ll be a great event. (more…)