A first step by Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) as he prepares to take the reins as President Pro Tem of the Georgia Senate is garnering praise.
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“Unlimited (lobbyist) giving is an untenable situation,” said Senate President Pro Tem-elect David Shafer, R-Duluth, the chamber’s highest-ranking member.
Lobbyists under current state law can make unlimited gifts to elected officials but must disclose all spending. Lobbyists spend about $1.6 million a year, mostly on food, trips and event tickets for lawmakers.
A draft proposal now before the Senate ethics study committee would outline the new ethics parameters, including defining what a gift is — a private dinner worth more than $100, for example — and is not.
Among exemptions are memberships or subscriptions related to public office, and registration costs and “reasonable” travel expenses to attend out-of-state junkets, as long as they are related to a senator’s official duties.
The move to curb lobbyists’ gifts won immediate praise from ethics watchdogs.
“That’s leadership by example,” said Kelli Persons with the League of Women Voters of Georgia. The league is one of several groups that have pushed especially hard over the past two years to strengthen ethics laws and regulations at the Capitol.
Biscuit (black-and-tan) and Mayflower (yellow) are lab-hound mix puppies who are approximately 3-4 months old and weigh about 15 pounds each; the littermates are available for adoption from Walton County Animal Control.
June is a happy , beautiful, adorable, playful, very affectionate lab mixed puppy, who is about 3 months old and weighs around 8 lbs; she is available for adoption from the Savannah Chatham Animal Control.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections
Because GeorgiaDailyDigest.com and GeorgiaPoliticalDigest.com have shut their doors, we’ve started GaNewsDigest.com to provide a wider variety of links to news stories about Georgia politics, business & economy, education and energy issues. The site is updated through the day.
On Friday, Governor Nathan Deal announced that he decided against setting up a state healthcare exchange under Obamacare.
“I remain committed to common sense health care solutions that empower consumers to take responsibility for their own health, motivate the private sector and drive efficiencies for consumers, employers and governments alike,” Deal said. “I continue to hope that we might finally engage in a serious conversation about restoring meaningful flexibility to states around health care programs.”
Deal said the federal government needs to loosen regulations that restrict states’ options.
“We have no interest in spending our tax dollars on an exchange that is state-based in name only,” Deal said. “I would support a free market-based approach that could serve as a useful tool for Georgia’s small businesses, but federal guidelines forbid that. Instead, restrictions on what the exchanges can and can’t offer render meaningless the suggestion that Georgia could tailor an exchange that best fits the unique needs of its population.
“I have joined numerous other governors seeking guidance from the federal government on establishing exchanges. We’ve yet to receive serious answers to our questions. I will not commit Georgia taxpayers to a project with so many unknowns.”
State Senator Vincent Fort (D) doesn’t like
anything ever done by any Republican anywhere Governor Deal’s decision.
“I bet this crowd, when the feds set up the health care exchanges, are going to howl about that,” Fort said.
Fort also said that putting uninsured people in the Medicaid program would decrease the costs that insured patients pay to cover the bills of those who need medical care but lack insurance to pay for it.
“It’s unfortunate that the governor’s chosen to put politics over the need of Georgians,” Fort said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a feature on the long, strange trip that is Glenn Richardson’s political career. The story is worth reading in its entirety.
In Senate District 30, where Richardson failed to make the December 4th Runoff, State Rep. Bill Hembree will meet Carrollton businessman Mike Dugan, and it’s a jump ball.
Hembree led the four-candidate field in all three counties of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding, which comprise District 30. He led Carroll with 12,173 votes, topping two Carroll County candidates — Dugan, with 9,703 votes, and business consultant Jim Naughton, who had 5,091 votes. Former Georgia Secretary of State Glenn Richardson of Hiram finished a distant fourth in Carroll County with 3,627 votes.
In the total district vote, Hembree got 27,565 votes; Dugan, 13,843; Richardson, 8,467; and Naughton, 7,043.
Hembree believes the upcoming advance voting will be important to his chances of winning — he said his campaign determined that he received roughly 15,000 votes during the general election’s early voting cycle. That would account for more votes than he received on Election Day.
“We received more in advance voting than we did on election day,” Hembree said. “With 15,000 voting for me early, if we can get that same type of commitment we feel like that is a real positive step for us.”
In 2011, a pair of Senate special elections held in November went into December runoff elections; in SD 28, Duke Blackburn led the first balloting but was overtaken by now-Senator Mike Crane in the runoff and in SD 50, former State Rep. Rick Austin led the first election but lost the runoff to Senator John Wilkinson. There was some spillover in those elections from the leadership battles in the State Senate that may be absent this year, but those examples should serve as a cautionary tale to anyone finding himself or herself in a December runoff.
Here’s what I told the Carrollton Times-Georgian:
“I could go on all day with examples [of December runoffs that reversed earlier results],” said Todd Rehm. “That said, Bill Hembree still has to be considered the leader in the runoff for SD 30. Hembree’s experience and ability to fundraise, along with the fact that Hembree carried Carroll County, make it his race to lose. But if there’s a lesson for candidates who come in first in November elections and head for a runoff it’s that they can’t afford to take anything for granted and Bill Hembree should be doing everything possible to ensure his victory.
“And remember, there’s yet another election in January.”
Speaking of Senate leadership, here’s an interesting inside tidbit: Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) punched above her weight at the Swamp Showdown in Little Ocmulgee State Park, where the Senate Republican Caucus elections were held last week.
Renee Unterman, another powerful senator from the Gwinnett delegation, said she was honored to nominate and second Shafer for the position [of President Pro Tem], during a meeting at Little Ocmulgee State Park. She had 19 proxies from the Reform Caucus to support her colleague.
“Our Reform Caucus is committed to uniting fellow senators with the lieutenant governor restoring order, transparency, and ethics to the Georgia State Senate,” she said of the group.
The appointment is a coup for the county, she said.
“Gwinnett’s prominence continues to rise with the state’s legislative leadership, as our delegation leads both in the Senate and the House,” she said. “Sen. Shafer is a shinning example of our talent in Gwinnett County.”
So, including her own vote, Unterman was voting for an absolute majority of the Republican Caucus.
Walter C. Jones of the Morris News Service writes about what changes in Senate leadership may mean for the state.
The leaders legislators picked says a lot about them and the coming two-year term of the General Assembly.
House Republicans made no changes. Most observers figure they didn’t need any. They had success on Election Day, during the last session passing major legislation and in negotiating contentious bills like the budget and tax reform with the Senate and the governor.
His loss continues the concentration of power in North Georgia. With the exception of mid-state residents House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal of Bonaire and Senate Majority Whip Cecil Staton of Macon, the leaders reside upstate.
The Senate Republicans did make changes to their leaders.
Winning the nomination for president pro tem was David Shafer of Duluth. Other winners are Ronnie Chance of Tyrone as majority leader and Butch Miller of Gainesville as caucus chairman.
Consider how their elections consolidate power. Shafer has been a long-time ally of Cagle, who’s from Hall County like Miller and Gov. Nathan Deal. Chance has been Deal’s Senate floor leader.
Having the bulk of the legislative leadership living close enough together to carpool to the Capitol could mean favoritism toward the region they all call home. But remember that two of Deal’s top projects are the deepening of the ship channel in the Savannah River and investing enough in Georgia Regents University in Augusta to make it one of the country’s premier medical schools.
At the very least, it suggests there will be close cooperation. It may not seem possible to exceed last year when Deal’s signature legislation, criminal-justice reform, passed unanimously and his HOPE reforms nearly did the year before. But other bills ran into less harmony, and Deal and Ralston reportedly held off on more ambitious legislation out of fear of discord, mainly in the Senate.
Now, a new combination of leaders will give their full attention to legislation. And as Shelton said, “Any organization is a reflection of its leadership.”
The image in the reflection is coming into focus, and it looks a lot like a soft-spoken grandfather, Nathan Deal.
Given Governor Deal’s leadership in bringing jobs to Georgia, and his respectful approach to working with the legislature, this bodes well for our state.
State Senate Democrats will meet today to elect their leadership.
Welcome to the 2013 season of Georgia Republican Party elections! I’ve already received a piece of direct mail from John Padgett, who is running for First Vice Chair. Here’s my two cents: if you want my vote, you have to ask me for it personally. The pool of eventual voters for Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party is small enough that you can identify frequent flyers from past convention cycles and start calling them personally.
The first rule I tell anyone running for office is that the best way to earn someone’s vote is to ask them for it personally; everything else, all mass media, are second-best ways of dealing with the fact that in most elections above the level of State House, you won’t be able to reach every voter personally. This is the most fundamental rule of winning elections.
Unfortunately, the last few cycles have seen GAGOP elections take on the aspects of large-scale media-driven campaigns featuring direct mail, robocalls, websites, and mass emails. But it doesn’t speak well of your promise to be the “Grassroots” candidate if you don’t personally contact the actual voters who make up the grassroots, tell them about yourself, and ask personally for their vote.
If you want a truly grassroots-drive Georgia Republican Party, join me in declining to vote for anyone who does not ask personally for your vote.
Speaker David Ralston will address the Nov. 28 breakfast of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Marietta Chapter.
The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials has notified the Gainesville City Council that it objects to the at-large districts in which council members are elected.
“At-large voting processes have been undone by litigation in many jurisdictions across the county,” said Jerry Gonzalez, GALEO’s executive director. “We believe the city of Gainesville is not in compliance with the Voting Rights Act and we want to work to eliminate the at-large voting process with the City Council cooperatively.”
File under bad headline writing: “Gov. Deal to pay fees in failed ethics complaint” states the headline in the Rome News-Tribune, which might sound like Governor Deal was being fined for an ethics complaint filed against him. But the story is about the State Ethics Commission deciding against making Rome-based ethics gadfly George Anderson pay the legal fees incurred by Deal’s campaign to defend against a frivolous ethics complaint that was dismissed.
The Government Transparency Commission voted 3-1 on Friday against making Anderson pay a portion of the legal fees that Deal spent to address complaints from Anderson….
Anderson apologized for some of the language used in his complaints. But he said it’s unfair to ask citizens to pay for lawyer fees when their complaints against public officials are rejected.
The executive director of Georgia Common Cause, William Perry, said his group was concerned that forcing citizens to pay would discourage others from filing complaints.
File this one under “please don’t give the General Assembly any ideas.”
Moonshine distillers are making their first batches of legal liquor in this tiny Georgia town’s city hall, not far from the mountains and the maroon, orange and gold canopy of trees that once hid bootleggers from the law.
A handful of moonshine distilleries are scattered around the South, but observers say this is the first they’ve ever seen right in a city hall. The distilleries come amid an increased interest in the U.S. for locally made specialty spirits and beer brewed in homes and micro-breweries.
The Dawsonville moonshine makers and city officials say the operation helps preserve a way of life. It also carries on traditions of an era when moonshine meant extra income for farmers, medicine for their children and helped fuel the beginnings of NASCAR racing.
“Dawson County was, sure enough, the moonshine capital of the world at one time,” distiller Dwight Bearden said, as he checked on the still where the third batch of Dawsonville Moonshine was being prepared. “It was just a way of life back then.”
Last week, the distillery was delivering the second batch of moonshine it’s made to its distributor, which has orders from liquor stores and other businesses around the state. Georgia law prohibits the distillery from selling its liquor at the site, but allows a distributor to ship it to stores with a liquor license, where it can be sold legally.
Wood recently got approval from state officials to offer small samples for tourists to taste.
State Rep. Rusty Kidd of Milledgeville, who introduced that bill during the most recent session, said Thursday he believes there will be more legislation during the upcoming session that would allow the Dawsonville distillery and others in the state to sell a single bottle of moonshine to tourists who want to take one home.
Locally made and locally grown products are a key aspect of the business, she said. A batch of apples fermenting last week came from the north Georgia town of Ellijay, about 30 miles away, she said.
The local movement has been a successful one in north Georgia, where several vineyards dot the mountain landscape and offer tastings of wines made with locally grown grapes. In Blue Ridge, at least one apple orchard brews and bottles its own apple and peach ciders.
Corn used by the distillery is also grown locally, and the distillery sticks to authentic recipes and doesn’t use any sugar, Wood said.
“This ain’t sugar liquor,” she said, “this is the real deal.”
Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) received an A+ grade from the Center for an Educated Georgia because of his an unwavering commitment to advancing education reform at the State Capitol. The Center is affiliated with the Georgia Family Council. “Every Georgia child should have access to the best possible education,” said Sen. Shafer. “I am honored to be recognized for my legislative work advancing education reform.”
The Center for Educated Georgia’s report card lists current legislators’ votes on 20 major education legislation in three categories since 2007. The graded bills were selected for their potential to improve public education in Georgia and legislators were assigned a grade in each of the three categories and received a final letter grade equivalent between A+ and F. Legislators’ grades are available online .
“We appreciate Senator Shafer’s strong support for better education in Georgia and congratulate him on an A+ rating on our legislator report card,” said Eric Cochling, vice-president of public policy at Georgia Family Council, the home of the Center for an Educated Georgia. “He has demonstrated a clear commitment to improving education for all of Georgia’s students.”
“Ludwig” is a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Basset Hound, who is one year old and will be available for adoption through Angels Among Us Rescue after a short quarantine and vetting period. He is very friendly and great with children and has worked with special needs kids in a program through the shelter where he was an inmate. Angels Rescue spends about $150 per dog for vetting and is asking for online donations and foster homes.
Real ID Act requires proof of identity for driver’s license
Beginning July 1, 2012, Georgians seeking or renewing a driver’s license will have to present additional evidence of their identity and immigration status under Georgia’s Secure ID implementation of the Federal Real ID program.
“This program will give Georgians the most secure IDs we’ve ever issued in this state,” said Deal. “It is our duty to protect our residents’ identities to the best of our ability.”
The new documentation requirements mean you must prove (1) you are who you say you are; (2) social security number; and (3) your home address. A list of acceptable documents and FAQs is available on the Georgia Department of Driver Services website.
Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections
Republican Danny Dukes will seek election as Chairman of the Cherokee County School Board. Dukes pledges to “eliminate all teacher furloughs by reducing a bloated central office, take every step possible to cut the County dropout rate in half, and never vote for a tax increase.”
“During the last few weeks, I have discovered a groundswell of support for a true conservative as Cherokee County School Board Chair. Parents, teachers, community leaders and citizens share my sincere passion for the children of our county. We all deserve a School Board with positive, collaborative energy and an effective leader who works for solutions based on conservative principles,” said Danny. “We can have the highest performing school system in Georgia if we put students first and pledge to work with other elected leaders to solve problems. And we can do all this without raising taxes.”
Join David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black tonight at 5 PM to support the reelection campaign of State Rep. Steve Davis (R-Stockbridge). $10 gets you a steak and potato dinner and kids eat free.
Federal court vacancies on the bench for the Northern District of Georgia and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals are straining their ability to handle cases and will be worsened when an additional sitting judge takes senior status.
Georgia’s Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of three year property tax assessment freeze by Effingham County that sought to help address the flood of foreclosures.
The Effingham County Chamber of Commerce heard from the Georgia Ports Authority on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, while the comment period on SHEP has been expanded by 15 days by the US Army Corps of Engineers to June 5th.
South Carolina’s Savannah River Maritime Commission hopes to limit the dredging that will allow better access to the Port of Savannah to 45 feet, rather than the 47 feet recommended by the Corps.
Savannah and Macon prompted some of this year’s revisions to Georgia’s Open Records and Open Meetings laws, according to a discussion by Republican Attorney General Sam Olens at the Atlanta Press Club.
The US Chamber of Commerce is buying ads in four states and will likely enter into Congressional races in Georgia.
Georgia State Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) issued a statement lauding Gov. Nathan Deal for signing Shafer’s Zero-Based Budgeting legislation.
“I applaud Governor Deal, not just for signing the bill but for his leadership in voluntarily implementing zero based budgeting,” Shafer said. “This tool is already being used to identify unnecessary spending and ensure that tax dollars are being used wisely.”
Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau is considering proposing a 1% county sales tax to replace property taxes in funding county government operations. I’m sure it’s completely unrelated to his reelection campaign and choice of political consultant.
Ruby D. Jones is seeking reelection to the Savannah-Chatham County School Board.
Philip Johnson is running as a Democrat for Newton County Commission District Five.
Robert Stokely is running as a Republican for State House District 71, to replace Billy Horne, who is not seeking reelection.
Republican Jon Heffer will run for State House District 28 in Banks, Habersham, and Stephens Counties.
Susan D. Brown announced her candidacy for Hall County Probate Judge.
Randy Evans, a retired police officer, is running for Whitfield Magistrate Judge.
The Rome City Commission has appointed Detrick Redding to the Ward 2 vacancy on the Commission..
Republican Dick Perryman is running for District Attorney in the Alapaha Judicial Circuit, which comprises Atkinson, Berrien, Clinch, Cook, and Lanier Counties.
Carroll County Commissioner Kevin Jackson is seeking reelection as a Republican.
Five of six candidates for Richmond County Sheriff addressed the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government yesterday.
Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) joined Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) in discussing recent metal theft legislation passed by the Georgia General Assembly.
Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann asked her colleague Emma Darnell to stop insulting North Fulton residents.
Bibb County Board of Education members will discuss reapportionment maps passed by the General Assembly at 6 PM on Thursday.
Peachtree Corners is making progress as Georgia’s newest city.
Forsyth County is re-running the election announcement for T-SPLOST after messing up the wording the first time.
Tomorrow night, Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) will hold a fundraiser at Manuel’s Tavern from 6 PM to 8 PM.
Ends & Pieces
Alan Abramowitz of the Emory University Department of Political Science discusses the role of SuperPACS and Merle Black has a short history of “Nasty Politics” and negative advertising.
The Board of Regents has released names for two institutions resulting from the merger of predecessor colleges. According to GPB, North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega and Gainesville State University will become the University of North Georgia, while Middle Georgia State College is the new name for the merger of Middle Georgia College in Cochran and Macon State College.
Porsche Cars North America, headquartered in Atlanta, released April sales figures that show 911 sales up 69% over the previous April and the best April ever for the company.
Georgia Tech will receive federal funding for research into nuclear power production and scholarships under the Nuclear Energy University Program, part of a $47 million program by the US Department of Energy to spur careers in nuclear power.
Georgia Power will testify before the Public Service Commission today that it is still under budget for the construction of Plant Vogtle’s new nuclear reactors, though overall costs may increase.
Seven cases against alleged Masters ticket scalpers were dismissed.
Mary Echols, daughter of PSC member Tim Echols was named Prep Player of the Week by the Athens newspaper after leading Athens Christian to a third state track-and-field championship and winning four individual and relay titles. That’s a pretty amazing performance.
Krispy Kreme is celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year.
Political partisans may choose not to accept facts that clash with their strongly held beliefs.
On a range of issues, partisans seem partial to their political loyalties over the facts. When those loyalties demand changing their views of the facts, he said, partisans seem willing to throw even consistency overboard.
Wisconsin’s “Total Recall” dynamic may be a harbinger of partisan civil war nationwide.
The politics of pro-Walker and anti-Walker are so advanced in the Badger State now that relatively few voters remain persuadable. And the depth of that divide is expected to remain, regardless of the outcome on June 5.
The divides of our era seem to be deepening. Consider the big margin by which North Carolina adopted a constitutional amendment this week that denies legal standing to civil unions and domestic partnerships all in the name of banning gay marriages that were already outlawed in the state.
And consider the drubbing Indiana gave to six-term Senate icon Richard Lugar in Tuesday’s Republican primary, which state treasurer Richard Mourdock won with 60 percent of the vote.