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.

Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

In honor of “Black Friday” at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter, where all black or majority-black dogs and cats can be adopted for $30, a saving of $60, here’s your song of the day.  27459, a female lab, is one of the dogs who is eligible for the discount.

Rally is a Shepherd puppy from Walton County Animal Shelter whom we featured for several days. He was rescued by Pound Puppies ‘n Kitties, and we encourage you to consider donating to support their work saving dogs.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Rasmussen released a poll that indicates that 64% of Americans believe that too many people rely on government aid.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 64% of Adults think there are too many Americans dependent on the government for financial aid. Just 10% think not enough Americans are dependent on the government, while 16% say the level of dependency is about right.

Even most of those who say they are currently living in poverty (56%) feel there are too many Americans dependent on government financial help.

There are sharp partisan differences over this question, however. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of Republicans and 61% of those not affiliated with either of the major parties believe too many Americans are dependent on the government for financial help. But just 40% of Democrats agree. One-in-three adults (33%) in President Obama’s party believe the level of dependency in America today is about right.

Among all Americans, 34% rate government programs designed to help people get out of poverty as effective, while 59% say those programs are not effective. This includes just four percent (4%) who think government anti-poverty programs are Very Effective and 20% who feel they are Not At All Effective.

Only 13% of those currently in poverty consider the government programs effective, compared to 36% of those who are not poor.

Forty-nine percent (49%) of all Americans believe current government anti-poverty programs actually increase the level of poverty in the country. Only 20% think the programs reduce poverty, while just as many (20%) feel they have no impact.

So maybe it’s the mainstream media who are out of touch with Americans, not Mitt Romney. Who would have thought?

The Marietta Daily Journal opines that Romney should continue his discussion of taxes and entitlements.

Romney was 100 percent right to point out that a significant portion of today’s Americans — and especially those who typically support liberal candidates — are voters who see government as the answer to all problems. Too many such Americans have turned John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Speech admonition inside out. “Ask not what your country can do for you: Ask what you can do for your country!” has been dumbed down into “Ask not what I can do for my country: Ask what my country can do for me!”

It’s the difference between the “hand up” philosophy of conservatives and the “hand out” philosophy espoused by many liberals.

To his credit, Romney, as of this writing, has not backed off his remarks. Yes, it surfaced at an unfortunate (for him) time, as he and others were sharply criticizing the incumbent for his incompetent, bungled Middle East policy. But successful candidates play the hand that is dealt them and find ways to trump unfavorable circumstances. And that is what Romney must now do.

The candidate must keep hammering home the fact that Obama has driven the country off the fiscal cliff. He must remind people at every opportunity of Obama’s redistributionist policies and efforts to transform the United States from a free-people, free-market capitalist country into a government-centered entitlement society — an effort that probably has a tax-cutter like JFK spinning in his grave.

Romney is on the right track, as his comments Tuesday on Fox News showed.

Last night, Governor Nathan Deal took to the stage at a Gwinnett County Republican Party rally and spoke about Romney’s comments.

Deal said Romney’s recent comments about a growing percentage of Americans relying on government programs, with a shrinking group of those paying taxes, echoed concerns of political philosophers when this country was created.

“We’re getting outnumbered by people who don’t pay … The truth is the truth,” Deal said to a group of more than 100 GOP leaders. “It is something we ought to wake up and realize because it jeopardizes the country on many levels.”

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers defended his acceptance of reimbursements for expenses paid by his campaign through his lawyer, Doug Chalmers.

“They were not campaign mailings, they were constituent mailings and had nothing to do with his election or re-election,” Chalmers said, who was hired by Rogers last week.

“It was proper for him to be reimbursed because he had loaned his campaign tens of thousands of dollars which were used to make these expenses in first place. There will be no double dipping—it’s perfectly legal,” Chalmers said.

Chalmers said Rogers has already taken steps to correct the matter.

“Even to avoid an appearance of impropriety, when the issue was brought to his attention, he cut a personal check to his campaign for $8,500,” Chalmers said.

Chalmers said that $8,500 check will be on Roger’s Sept. 30 campaign disclosure

But William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said in an interview with the Tribune that Rogers could still face possible consequences.

“I think it could potentially be a problem because the senator notarized a document certifying that everything in the report is true,” Perry said. “I think it would raise a red flag that the campaign, if it was paying for the expenses, is against the law and swearing he paid for himself would potentially be a problem.”

Georgia law prohibits using taxpayer money to pay for campaign costs. Lawmakers can use state funding for newsletters and other printed materials intended to keep constituents informed about issues, which Chalmers said the funds were used for.

Perry said he did not think anyone was out to steal money, but because of lack of oversight, politicians become careless.

It is permissible for a campaign to pay for expenses incurred in the elected official’s performance of his or her duties. (OCGA §21-5-33(a)).

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Speaking of political direct mail, NPR has a story this morning about the barrage of direct mail that will start filling your mailboxes any day.

In the coming weeks, candidates will bombard your mailboxes with ads. It may seem old-fashioned, but the consultants who devise direct-mail campaigns have become sophisticated about knowing whom to reach and what to say.

“It’s almost because of the changing media landscape that direct mail remains relevant,” says Anil Mammen, who runs a small direct-mail shop in Washington, D.C.

“Direct mail is one of the few mediums left where you can go reach a voter and convince your voter to consume your information, without them having to choose to do it,” says Mammen, who works for Democratic candidates and campaigns. “It’s forced upon them.”

Mammen says direct mail is an ideal medium for negative ads. People are more inclined to believe what they read.

“You can show the citation. You can show the proof if there’s a court document. You can show the court document maybe not in its entirety but enough of it,” he says. “You can deliver negative messages that require a hurdle of believability. That’s what direct mail is really good at.”

Campaigns are spending about 15 percent of their ad budgets on direct mail, says Kantar Media/CMAG, a campaign-ad tracking firm.

Costas Panagopoulos, who teaches political science at Fordham University in New York, says direct mail — unlike broadcast media, TV and radio — is a great way to reach very specific targeted groups of voters

“Political campaigns can use the mountains of available data, demographic, psychographic data about, you know, who people are, what their gender is, what their occupations are, as well as things like what magazines they subscribe to or whether they have children or a pet at home or whether they have a gold [credit] card,” Panagopoulos says.

Like taxes, direct mail isn’t going away anytime soon. This year, campaigns are expected, Panagopoulos says, to spend more than $1 billion to get their messages delivered to your door.

I received the first mailpiece of the General Election two days ago from J. Max Davis, the first Mayor of Brookhaven, who will be elected in the November 6th General Election, though some city council posts will have to be filled in runoff elections.

Professor Alan Abramowitz (D-Emory) says that increasing polarization of the electorate decreases the advantage of incumbency, leading him to tweak his presidential prediction model, which tightens his predicted margin in favor of Barack Obama.

A Georgia business is making national news with its signs in opposition to President Obama’s reelection.

Businesses take a big chance by outing their politics, says Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at New York’s Fordham University.

“They need to weigh the risks against the potential benefits of making such a visible expression of their preferences,” he says.

But the owner of one Georgia business says response to his political missives has been mostly supportive.

At Premier Platforms Inc., which sells, rents and services various kinds of aerial platforms and forklifts, David Cooper uses his giant highway marquee to broadcast his politics.

He’s no fan of President Obama, as anyone driving along Interstate 75 near Byron, Ga., could tell: “Things could be worse. Re-elect Obama — he’ll prove it,” one recent message read, according to Macon newspaper The Telegraph. Cooper told the newspaper he could “count on two hands the number of complaints” he’s gotten; one person threatened to picket the business, but the threat never materialized.

Real Housewives of Campaign 2012? Sounds like a blockbuster reality show.

See, just like our casts, these characters are hyper-competitive and more than willing to have it out in front of a worldwide audience. It’s like, “Who cares what they’re saying about us — as long as they’re talking about us! Consequences, be damned!” I mean, have you SEEN Romney’s secret video where he badmouths 47 percent of Americans? With those loose lips, it’s no wonder his ship is sinking!

Each has questioned the other’s credentials (along with jokes and jabs of birtherism and felony tax fraud) so often, that if you take out Wolf Blitzer and a debate stage and insert Andy Cohen and a “Watch What Happens Live” set, the drama is not as different, as you’d think. By the way, Andy, I can’t wait for the post-election reunion special. The ratings will be HUGE!

The race even has incredibly powerful women that are loved by their fans and feared by their opponents: Ann Romney and Michelle Obama. Each was cheered for having one of the best speeches at her convention. Each possesses a wardrobe many would love to call their own. And each can win over swing voters who may think that the Housewife’s husband is more “Desperate” than “Real.”

Former Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson was interviewed on a local Paulding County website, in which he suggests moving away from Georgia’s antiquated and uncivilized system of foreclosure sales literally on the steps of county courthouses, and into a process that allows homeowners being foreclosed upon a day in court. Given what we know about systematic fraud by foreclosing banks, wrongful foreclosures, robo-signing, and the impact of a foreclosure on families, I might support such a measure, and certainly think we should consider moving away from the status quo.

Samuel Westmoreland, the director of the Fulton County elections and voter registration office was jailed for ten days after his probation was revoked for failure to complete DUI school and community service, which were conditions of his probation for a 2009 DUI.

State Court Judge Wesley B. Taylor, in a July 16 probation revocation hearing, handed down an order postponing Westmoreland’s 10-day sentence until after the county primary elections in July “in order to prevent a potential hardship upon the voters of Fulton County.”

The elections board is scheduled to take up the matter at a specially called meeting that Matarazzo said is scheduled for noon Monday.

Westmoreland already was under fire from voters and election board members for an array of errors that occurred during the July primaries.

The missteps included the elections department assigning 690 voters in Sandy Springs and southeast Atlanta to the wrong state Senate and state House races. It also missed the deadline to certify election results by an hour and a half, leaving the county subject to fines by the state Election Board.

“He needs to be gone,” Commissioner Bill Edwards told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “It just goes to your character.”

Former Governor Sonny Perdue joined the Governors’ Council at the Bipartisan Policy Center, which seeks to bring a state perspective to national issues.

In Augusta, Lori Davis, a former candidate for Mayor, has endorsed Stanley Hawes for City Commission District One.

Former State Rep. Burke Day (R) has applied for an appointment to the Tybee Island City Council to fill the term of council member Frank Schuman who died in office.

Dockworkers unions have agreed to extend the deadline for negotiating a new contract with employers at East coast ports.

“I am pleased to announce that at the close of today’s productive negotiation session, in which progress was made on several important subjects, the parties have agreed to extend the collective bargaining agreement due to expire on September 30 for a 90-day period, (taking it) through Dec. 29,” said George H. Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

After talks broke down last month between the ILA and the alliance, which represents management at 14 deepwater ports between New York and Texas, Cohen coaxed both sides back to the table in hopes of averting an imminent work stoppage

Power Station

Environmentalists think that Georgia should deploy more wind turbines for power generation off the Georgia coast, but Governor Deal disagrees.

“Georgia has a little over 60 gigawatts (of wind resource),” said Jennette Gayer, advocate for Environment Georgia, which helped launch the report. “That’s like 75 average-sized power plants.”

Unlike 11 of the other coastal states, Georgia hasn’t joined the Atlantic States Offshore Wind Consortium, a federal program designed to coordinate and streamline wind development off the Atlantic coast. South Carolina and Florida are the only other hold outs.

But Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s spokesman Brian Robinson indicated via email that the governor is not inclined to support wind energy development now.

“When the markets and the technology advance further, we believe there will be a day when wind energy is a viable option for our state,” he wrote. “Georgia will start using wind energy when the prices are right and the technology is right for the unique nature of our wind energy off the coast.

“Studies show the current technologies available won’t work in Georgia’s environment. There is in fact wind energy potential in Georgia and we have every hope that improvements in technology will one day allow us to use this clean, renewable resource.”

Gov. Deal is correct. As we have seen with solar power, states that adopted utility scale solar power generation paid 3-4 times the current cost for photovoltaic cells, which generate electricity. Today, states considering implementing solar will benefit from dramatic cost reductions brought about through market forces, not goverment subsidies.

Plant Vogtle’s Unit 1 nuclear reactor is offline this week as it’s being refueled, a process that occurs roughly every 18 months.

Steel plates that reinforce concrete construction at the new reactors being built at Vogtle failed safety testing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and have not been installed.

A more detailed investigation to determine the extent of the problem – and any potential effect on the project – will be completed by Nov. 6, the report said.

The inspectors and officials from Shaw Group, the company hired to build the $14 billion project, identified the issues before any plates had been installed, an NRC spokesman said.

In an Aug. 31 interview, Buzz Miller, the executive vice president of nuclear development for Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear, told The Augusta Chronicle that as many as 150 additional workers could be needed to bolster oversight programs that ensure materials meet strict nuclear standards.

In its most recent report to the Georgia Public Service Commission, the company said final projected costs for quality assurance, oversight, operational readiness and regulatory compliance rose from a projected $621 million in 2009 to $755 million in 2012.

Ends & Pieces

A World War 2-era B-17 bomber called “Memphis Belle” is receiving maintenance at Cherokee County Regional Airport until it continues its tour on Monday, but you can visit the plane until then and it will remain based at Cherokee for the next year.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 10, 2012


George is an English Bulldog, and is currently available for adoption at the Cherokee County Humane Society after first doing a stint behind bars at the Cobb County Animal Shelter. He came in as a stray and has neither been claimed nor adopted.

George has had some medical issues, but with good veterinary care, it appears he’s getting over his problems. He is six years old, weighs sixty-six pounds, and would like nothing better than to watch football games on television from a comfy dog bed (or sofa) in his new home.

According to his guardians, George is a typical laid back lazy boy. He loves getting his belly rubbed!  He loves loves loves his squeaky toys!  He is crate and housetrained. He seems fine with other dogs and oblivious to the  cats but suspect George would be quite happy as an only child and the center of attention.  He may get a tad fussy about having his face messed with but we suspect that has more to do with discomfort of his eyes.  Since we do not know his history, a home without small children is what he seeks!!  George is neutered, heartworm tested negative ( yay) and microchipped!

George has also racked up about $700 in vet bills, which the Humane Society is asking for help in paying. If you’re unable to adopt George, you might wish to donate online in honor of your favorite football team, or your favorite team’s nemesis.

All the dogs on this page are listed as “Urgent” at their shelters, which generally means impending euthanasia.
Just look at this cow-looking dog named Boomer.He’s a young, random-breddog who is 6-8 months old and weighs 36 pounds. Boomer is on the shy, submissive side, so he should fit in well in a home with other established dogs. He’s still a young guy but catching on to the leash thing! Boomer is available for adoption today from Walton County Animal Shelter for the low, low price of $40.

Next up is Bermuda, also at Walton County.

Bermuda is described as a Pit Bull, but in the animal shelter context, that often means nothing more than “he/she has a wide head and we don’t know anything else about it’s ancestry.” She is 7 months, 36 pounds and available Monday.

Pits are highly controversial, but many people believe they’re the best dogs, loyal and smart with fantastic temperments. If you’re interested in adopting a dog described as a Pit, my advice would be to judge the dog as an individual and speak to people who deal extensively with Pit-types. Get good advice, and train your dog well. As always, it is the dog owner’s responsibility to ensure that their best friend is not a menace to society.

But just look at Bermuda’s face.


Next up are three puppies, Nat, Geo, and Fluffernutter.

Nat and Geo are male Shepherd-mix puppies who are about three months old and weigh fifteen pounds each. They were found stray and will be available for adoption on Monday. Fluffernutter is a six-month old puppy who weighs about twenty pounds. She’s described as a “Retriever mix” and I’m thinking she looks like a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Tollers are an uncommon breed and I’d be surprised if a purebred puppy ended up in a shelter. But if Fluffernutter were my dog, I’d probably be able to get away with calling her one. She is also available for adoption beginning Monday.

Finally, we have Rusty, a male Retriever mix guesstimated to be about a year old, and weighing in at 62 pounds. He is said to be very friendly.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

The Charter School Amendment may have to provide much of the campaign excitement this year, as most state offices are not up for reelection.

While both commission incumbents, Republicans Stan Wise and Chuck Eaton, face challengers, the absence of TV advertising tends to leave political editors, reader commenters and the average gadfly uninterested. Besides, the fact that incumbents historically win re-election more than 95 percent of the time suggests that Wise and Eaton are unlikely to be deposed.

So, a lowly ballot question is providing most of the fun for the next two months.

Thank the Georgia Supreme Court and Gov. Nathan Deal. That’s because the court struck down as unconstitutional a law that created an appointed commission to grant operating charters to schools started by parents — sometimes acting on behalf of management companies — over the objections of the local board of education. To remedy it, Deal called for putting on the general-election ballot an amendment to make it constitutional.

“Georgia’s parents want more options, and it is my duty as governor to see that they have them,” he said in May when he signed the legislation. “These schools help students trapped in underperforming schools and aid communities that want to invest in new and imaginative ways of learning for their children.”

[T]he committee organized to campaign for the amendment, Families for Better Public Schools, reported to the state ethics commission that it had raised $487,000. More than 95 percent of that money came from out of state, including from companies that have their own financial interests because they operate charter schools here.

We will be releasing poll results on the Charter School Amendment on our website this afternoon, and providing some analysis tomorrow morning.

Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and Democratic State Rep. Calvin Smyre co-authored an op-ed in the Augusta Chronicle about Plant Vogtle’s two new nuclear reactors.

Any financial adviser will tell you that the best way to ensure solid long-term returns on your investments is to diversify your investment portfolio. Putting your financial eggs in multiple baskets allows you to capitalize on the higher-yield potential of short-term opportunities, while also taking advantage of the sure growth of longer-term, predictable-yield investments.

Americans would do well to apply this counsel to our energy investments. That’s why we’re so pleased to see Georgia taking important steps toward helping the U.S. diversify its energy portfolio.

The NRC’s decision to grant construction and operating licenses for the new reactors at Plant Vogtle also marks a moment of tremendous opportunity that offers Georgians access to clean, affordable energy; more well-paying jobs; a much-needed economic boost; and a reliable source of energy long into the future.

[N]uclear power is a clean, affordable form of energy. Nuclear power plants operate without producing harmful emissions, making nuclear one of the most prolific sources of clean energy. In fact, nuclear power accounts for 63 percent of the carbon-free energy produced annually in the United States. We believe that the nuclear energy’s expansion is critical to our nation’s ability to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.

[B]uilding and operating the two plants will provide a strong source of jobs for Georgians now and in the future.

The new reactors also will provide a powerful boost to the state’s economy.

Congressman Tom Graves (R-Ranger) will have to do more with less as his office budget is being cut 6 percent this year.

[Graves] has $1,325,000 to work with this year. According to spokeswoman Jennifer Hazelton, that’s 6.4 percent lower than the $1.4 million office budget last year, and the 2011 Members’ Representational Allowance is 5 percent down from 2010.

“Tom has been one of the ones leading the charge on that,” Hazelton said. “Since he’s been on the Appropriations Committee, they’ve cut the available money by 11.4 percent.”

“It’s a hard-and-fast allowance, but every district is different,” Hazelton said. “Who’s in it, the terrain, the distance from Washington D.C. … It all has to be taken into account when you’re determining the best way to serve your constituents.”

The campaign for the Twelfth Congressional District between Democrat incumbent John Barrow and Republican challenger Lee Anderson may ultimately hinge on whether Barrow successfully distances himself from President Obama, or Anderson’s attempt to tie him to the top of his ticket succeeds.

Even before a challenger was named, national GOP groups were focused on painting Barrow and Obama as political soul mates in a race being closely watched as a chance for Republicans to knock off a Democratic congressman.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 4, 2013

Weebles, a black lab, gave birth to 11 puppies in an animal shelter, then got sick and was unable to nurse them. Five puppies survived after Angels Among Us pulled Weebles and the puppies. The puppies aren’t ready for adoption yet, but the vet bills are causing a drain on the rescue’s money. Visit their website if you wish to donate online or to apply to foster or adopt a dog or cat.

You can also help Angels Among Us by voting for them in the Shelter Challenge, which is giving away grants ranging from $5000 to $1000 to winning shelter. To vote, hit the link and in the “Search and Vote for A Shelter” box, set the state to Georgia, hit search and wait for the results. When it shows the result, click vote, then you’ll have to fill out some letter to confirm your vote.. Then go to another computer and vote again and repeat every day through September 16th.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Justice Party Presidential Candidate Rocky Anderson qualified as a write-in candidate on the Georgia ballot, which means that he filled out some paperwork correctly and both of his write-in votes will be counted. Mickey Mouse failed to qualify as a write-in candidate, but will likely receive more write-ins. Seriously.

Attorney General Sam Olens has raised his profile in Georgia politics as the best conduit to a potential Romney administration.

Dalton native Andrea Saul serves as press secretary for the Romney campaign. Dalton is quite proud of her.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for August 28, 2012

Horace and Honey are both available from the Cobb County Animal Shelter. Horace is a 2-year old, 54 pound male who came to the shelter as a stray with ID and appears to be house trained. He is already neutered, microchipped and current on vaccinations. He is in run 78 and his ID# is 547084. He’s described as a pointer, but if you told everyone he’s a chocolate lab, I don’t think they’d say any different.

Honey is 8 months old and weighs 42 pounds. She came to the shelter as a stray with ID more than a month ago and her family chose not to come for her when they were contacted. She knows to sit and stay and is leash trained. She is already spayed, micro-chipped, and current on vaccinations including rabies. Honey has been heartworm tested and is negative. She is in run 58 and her ID# is 546467.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Former President George W. Bush spoke to a sold out audience last night at the opening night of the Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum sponsored by Columbus State University.

“They often ask me if you miss being president and the answer’s no!” joked Bush, a two-term Republican president who left office in January 2008. “It’s a little irritating having to stop at a stoplight when I was coming here. And I had to shower on the airplane.”

“I’m not poetic enough to describe what it means to salute a man or a woman who has volunteered in the face of danger,” Bush said. “But ours is a unique country that produces hundreds of thousands of such individuals. I’m particularly proud to be here with privates and the sergeants and, of course, the officers such as H.R. McMaster, Gen. McMaster.”

The former president, of course, was referring to the two-star general who took charge of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning in June.

“The guy wrote a book, and much to the amazement of the New York Times, I read it,” quipped Bush. “It was influential in my decision-making and I want to thank you, and I’m glad to see you taking on such a big responsibility.”

Until and unless the schedule changes again, Attorney General Sam Olens will address the Republican National Convention at around 8:20 PM on Wednesday night.

Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olens will be a prominent speaker at this week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa. Olens will be making a ‘prime-time’ appearance with Forida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Both attorneys general have been strong supporters of Mitt Romney during the primary. Olens and Bondi were also both part of the 26 state lawsuit challenging President Obama’s health care plan.

Olens says the location of this year’s convention is crucial because Florida is a ‘swing state’ and could bring much needed electoral votes to the Romney camp:

“President Obama has been behind in Florida for a while, and the Romney team is spending a lot of time in Florida, it’s a huge state, a lot of delegates and it’s a state that’s clearly needed for a victory November 6th.”

The Republican National Convention may provide teachable moments, and GPB has some suggestions for teachers looking for ways to discuss the Conventions in class.
State Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe) checked in with a photo and short quote from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s talk to the Georgia delegation.

Atlanta Tea Party organizer Julianne Thompson had more to say, discussing proposed rules changes that would affect the 2016 Convention.

As a National Delegate to the 2012 RNC, I am extremely disappointed that a rule would be passed through committee that essentially strips the grassroots of all of it’s representative power by ridding State Parties of their ability to choose whom they will send as delegates and alternates to represent their State to the Republican National Convention. The rules change would allow the Presidential nominee sweeping new power to override that process and choose their own National Delegates. The rule also allows the RNC (with only a 3/4 vote) the power to amend the party’s rules without a vote by the full Republican National Convention.

During a time that should ring of unity, you have put the GOP at a crossroads. Do you want to win this election and future elections? Now is your opportunity to prove it. Either take it to the floor and let us vote it down, and better yet, pull this insulting attempt to disenfranchise the heart and soul of our Republican Party!

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has asked a federal judge to dismiss the US Department of Justice lawsuit claiming that Georgia’s runoff procedures for federal offices violate rules designed to help overseas and military voters to participate in elections.

State Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Atlanta) told WABE that he is hopeful the appellate court decision to allow Georgia to enforce most provisions of HB 87 will put pressure on the federal government to undertake comprehensive immigration reform.

Lindsey co-sponsored the legislation, which led to the immigration law ruled on by the court. He says now that the U.S. Supreme Court and the 11th circuit court of appeals have weighed in it’s time for the federal government to act.

“Now we can move beyond these measures, which states are having to do in a reactive mode, given the federal government’s refusal to take seriously this issue. Now we demand the federal government come in and do its job.”

Lindsey says there are a number of immigration issues the federal government needs to address:

“In terms of guest worker programs, in terms of what do you do with the youth here who have followed their parents across the border? What do you do with adults who are here who are not otherwise violating the law, in terms of getting them out from the shadows of an underground economy?”

Despite the appellate court decision upholding parts of HB 87, it may not change things dramatically for local law enforcement.

“Departmental procedures already require that deputies have a legal reason to stop and detain anyone regardless of who they are,” Douglas County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Stan Copeland said. “Once they are detained for a legal reason, this opinion gives deputies the authority to require identification to verify citizenship, not just for a warrant check.”

The department has purchased several portable fingerprint scanners that are used in the field to identify people who cannot produce positive identification.

“Deputies already had the authority to check a person for (warrants) and this simply expands that authority to also check immigration status,” Copeland said.

The department also has ways to monitor racial profiling if it was to occur.

“Racial profiling will continue to be monitored through reviewing videotapes and ensuring that no one is detained except for a legal reason,” Copeland said.

Despite the effort of local law enforcement, he explained that the problem still remains with the federal authorities.

“If deputies run across persons who are in the country illegally, it is still up to ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) to agree to pick them up from the jail, and at this point, that is very uncertain,” Copeland said. “The department will monitor the response by ICE over the next few months to determine what they are willing or not willing to do.”

Nuclear Power

Savannah celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first commercial nuclear-powered ship, NS Savannah.

The Savannah was named for the SS Savannah, the first steam ship to cross the Atlantic. The first Savannah made its historic voyage in 1819. Wendy Melton of Savannah’s Ships of the Sea Museum says, like the first Savannah, the nuclear ship was ahead of its time.

“It was short of a showpiece,” Melton says. “It was a demonstration piece to sort of calm the fears after World War Two of nuclear power to demonstrate that it could be used in a peaceful manner.”

The NS Savannah was built to carry both cargo and passengers. And some historians say, it never could do both very successfully. It sailed around the world 21 times without ever refueling, or making a profit, before it was decommissioned in 1972. It now sits in a Baltimore shipyard, where some hope it will become a museum. Todd Groce of the Georgia Historical Society presided over the marker dedication.

Some people also would like to see that ship and museum here, an expensive proposition for sure. For now, though, Savannah has a historic marker near the convention center on Hutchinson Island.

Construction at Plant Vogtle reactors 3 & 4 has gone at a quicker pace since the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the construction license.

Plant Vogtle’s $14 billion expansion – which includes the first new commercial reactors built in the U.S. in decades – has accelerated rapidly since the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved final permits in February.

At the Vogtle site, where as many as 2,200 workers come and go daily, the two emerging “nuclear islands” that will house the new reactors are surrounded by offices, equipment, concrete plants and security gates.

Rising from it all, just a few hundred yards from the giant crane, is a steel structure – taller than a 10-story building – known simply as “MAB,” or modular assembly building.

Inside, workers weld together sections of a 70-foot-tall component that will house piping, maintenance corridors and other functions of the Unit 3 reactor. It is designed to be locked into place like a piece of a giant puzzle.

“When it’s done, they take the end off this building, pick it up and roll it out – just like they do with the space shuttle,” [South­ern Nuclear executive vice president for nuclear development Buzz] Miller said.

Site-specific Vogtle issues include noncompliant rebar and a series of proposed license amendments and stalled negotiations for a federal loan guarantee that would provide $8.3 billion in financing.

From Miller’s perspective, it comes with the territory.

“We’re first, and obviously a lot of learning is taking place as we go along,” he said. “There has been a lot of focus on the negative, but there is also a lot of positive.”

The biggest challenges, he said, involve re-establishing a nuclear culture that has been dormant for decades and ensuring materials supplied for the Vogtle reactors meet all the standards.

The company has expanded its oversight and quality assurance programs, which place inspectors in places where key parts are being manufactured – including venues as far away as Korea and Italy.

“It’s like triple-checking, over and over, everything that’s done,” he said. “When you do that, you find things – and you deal with them.”

A freeze on issuing further licenses by the NRC is not expected to directly impact Vogtle.

The move will strand 19 final reactor licensing decisions, including nine construction and operating licenses for planned new projects.

Plant Vogtle’s $14 billion expansion, licensed earlier this year, and SCANA’s V.C. Summer expansion in South Carolina were not addressed in the NRC order, however, and may continue as planned, said Scott Burnell, an NRC spokesman at its headquarters in Maryland.

The Vogtle project is well under way – with about 2,200 construction workers on the Burke County site daily – but the licensing freeze is not expected to have any major impacts, said Southern Company spokesman Steve Higginbottom.

Georgia Power and the other utilities financing Vogtle have filed a countersuit against the vendors in charge of building the new reactors.

Georgia Power Co. and other Plant Vogtle owners filed a lawsuit this week seeking a refund of more than $29.5 million from the contractor consortium building the site’s two new nuclear reactors.

During site preparation for the project, contractors removed 3.9 million cubic yards of earth during the excavation of 90-foot-deep holes for the two reactors and refilled those areas with 3.6 million cubic yards of backfill.

During that project, extra costs were incurred because of the need for additional backfill, for which the contractors were paid an additional $61 million, the complaint said.

Although the owners disputed the added costs, they paid 50 percent of the bill – $29,253,500 – on June 9, the complaint said.

The contractors filed suit against the owners July 25, seeking the remainder of the bill, in violation of the 2008 agreement, which requires that mediation efforts be exhausted before lawsuits can be filed.

For those inclined to hysteria over nuclear construction cost overruns, the amount of money at issue in the lawsuit is less than half-a-percent of the cost of the new reactors.

Ends & Pieces

Dalton, Georgia suffered the worst job losses of any American city from June 2011 to June 2012, shedding 4600 jobs.

“First of all, to lose the most jobs, you have to have had the jobs to begin with, and we’re still a very dynamic employment center,” says Dalton Mayor David Pennington.

“Nobody seems to want to address that. They’ll mention jobs but then they go about bashing the other person,” he says. “We would love to have other manufacturers here. We would love to have any kind of high-tech business here. But it’s not as easy as people think it is to be able to attract that. If it is, Atlanta would like to have it, too.”

Even with the losses, the mayor says the Dalton area still provides more than 50,000 jobs. He says the state should abolish the income tax so Georgia cities can be more competitive.

Besse Cooper from Walton County is the oldest living person in the world at 116 years old as of Sunday.

Cooper says his mother takes her designation as the world’s oldest living person in stride, and Young – who has met several people who’ve held the title – says Cooper meets the typical profile of those who beat the odds and earn the record.

According to Young, “They tend to have a self-sufficiency, a self-reliance, a belief in themselves, and they don’t get overly stressed about things.”

And Besse Cooper’s son expects her to retain the title for a while. “She’s in good health and doing well, and we’ll probably have another birthday next year.”

In 1896, the year Besse Cooper was born, William McKinley was elected President, and Utah was admitted to the union as the 45th state.