Georgia Political News for March 19, 2012

19
Mar

Georgia Political News for March 19, 2012

Amadeus illustrates the difference a foster home makes in the life and adoptability of an abandoned dog. He is available for adoption from Angels Rescue, where you may also donate or apply to foster or adopt.

Legislative Day 34

The Senate will convene at 1 PM today. The Senate Rules Calendar is available here.

House Rules Committee will meet at 9 AM and the House will convene at 10 AM. The Rules Calendar will be available here once it it online.

Under the most current resolution, the General Assembly calendar for next week is:

Monday, March 19, Day 34
Tuesday, March 20 Day 35
Wednesday, March 21 Day 36
Thursday, March 22 Day 37

Monday’s Senate Committee Meeting Schedule

9:30 AM JUDICIARY- Sub Com 310 CLOB
2:30 PM JUDICIARY-Upon Adj. 307 CLOB
2:30 PM FINANCE 310 CLOB
2:30 PM HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 450 CAP
3:30 PM NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRON. 125 CAP
3:30 PM BANKING & FINANCIAL INST. 310 CLOB

Monday’s House Committee Meeting Schedule

9 AM RULES 341 CAP
11 AM Special Joint Comm. on GA Revenue Tax Structure 506 CLOB
1 PM BANKS & BANKING 406 CLOB
1 PM JUDICIARY NON-CIVIL 132 CAP
2 PM Sales Tax Subcommittee of Ways & Means 133 CAP
2 PM EDUCATION 506 CLOB
2 PM Energy Sub. of Energy, Utilities & Telecom. 515 CLOB
3 PM HUMAN RELATIONS & AGING 515 CLOB
3 PM Public Finance & Policy Tax Sub. of Ways & Means 133 CAP
3 PM HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES 606 CLOB
3PM INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS 415 CLOB

Zero-based budgeting is receiving mixed reviews after the first budget is passed by the legislature using the procedures. Gov. Nathan Deal adopted zero-based budgeting despite former Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoing the measure.

The Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity released a report on state public corruption laws that ranks Georgia last with an overall grade of 49 out of 100, but this doesn’t mean there’s any actual corruption.

“We’re not measuring actual corruption,” said Caitlin Ginley, the project manager for the report. “This is a look at the opposite: the laws, policies and procedures in place to prevent corruption and how effective they are.”

The report on Georgia was written by Jim Walls of Atlanta Unfiltered, and that has drawn some criticism.

House Ethics Committee Chairman Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs, said the report blindsided him, and he criticized the choice of author for Georgia’s report card. Jim Walls, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor and owner of the website Atlanta Unfiltered, gathered, wrote and provided an initial score on the information on Georgia for the report.

“To have Georgia’s laws judged by a blogger instead of a regulatory official, as has been done in the past, is of great concern,” he said. “Based on previous discussions with the Center for Public Integrity, we were under the assumption that the 2012 rankings would show Georgia in the top five states.”

A prior CPI study on financial disclosure rules for state legislators ranked Georgia seventh in the nation. Wilkinson has trumpeted the ranking in recent months in rebuttal of calls for tougher ethics laws.

Wilkinson said he plans to ask the CPI to do a new audit on Georgia’s laws with another author.

Rick Thompson, a former executive director of the State Ethics Commission, called the report biased and disappointing.

“All you have to do is read some of these opinions and how they’re answered to see there’s a whole lot of room to inject your opinion in,” he said. “The reports CPI used to do were campaign finance, disclosure and lobbying. This one seems to be more how does the government work in the view of a reporter.”

Of particular concern to Thompson were areas in which the report graded the state on how well laws worked “in practice.” Georgia scored low on many of those questions.

William Perry, executive director for Common Cause Georgia, said he had seen a preliminary scorecard and found it “pretty accurate.”

“I think that some of the scoring is kind of generous,” he said. “I think this is true measurement of the law that the Legislature has been touting for the last two years.”

House Bill 872 or Senate Bill 321 would place restrictions on buyers of recyclable non-ferrous metals, and are drawing opposition from the industry. “I think that it’s way overkill,” metal buyer Kenny Tesler told the Marietta Daily Journal, “I think it’s not going to accomplish what they intend. I think it’s pretty much political grandstanding.”

Senate Bill 350, which addresses the disposition of firearms seized by authorities that are not needed as evidence, is expected to be heard by the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee today.

Last week, the House Game, Fish & Parks Committee heard testimony on SB 301 by Sen. John Bulloch (R-Ochlocknee), which would remove Georgia’s prohibition on the use of silencers in hunting. Silencer ownership and possession are highly regulated by the Feds. Georgia is home to Advanced Armament Corp., a silencer manufacturer and US military supplier.

Campaigns, Elections and Events

Voters in Flowery Branch may vote early in the April 3special election for City Council beginning today, between  8 AM and 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday through March 30, at City Hall, 5517 Main Street in Flowery Branch.

Peachtree Corners voters will have an opportunity tonight to meet candidates in runoff elections for the new city’s first city council at Christ the King Lutheran Church’s fellowship hall, at 5575 Peachtree Parkway from 7:30 to 9 PM. The runoff election is April 3, 2012

Three candidates for Forsyth County Sheriff will meet in a debate hosted by the Forsyth County Tea Party, tonight at 6:30 PM at the Forsyth County Senior Center, located at 595 Dahlonega St. In addition to Sheriff Ted Paxton, challengers Lauren McDonald III and Duane Piper will participate.

Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton will hold a fundraiser Friday, March 23, 2102 from 5 to 8 PM at the Reid Family Barn, located at Castleberry and Major Roads. The suggested donation is $100 and you may RSVP to SheriffPaxton [at] earthlink.net or by phone to 404-281-6680.

I would describe the Hall County Sheriff’s race as a “clown car primary” except for the slight possibility that I may one day find myself pulled over by an employee of one of the seven candidates in that race. The Gainesville Times writes that the election will include  Richard Blevins, former Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputy; Gerald Couch, formerly of the Gainesville Police Department and Hall County Sheriff’s Office; Chuck Hewett, a veteran of the Hall sheriff’s office; John Sisk, formerly of Gainesville Police and the Hall sheriff’s office; Col. Jeff Strickland, former chief deputy of the Hall sheriff’s office; Jon P. Strickland, formerly of Gainesville Police and the Georgia State Patrol; and Rickey E. Tumlin, a veteran of the Hall sheriff’s office.

The South Hall Republican Club will hold an educational forum at the Spout Springs Library on Tuesday March 20th beginning at 6:30 PM.

Coweta County may vote on Sunday Sales in July.

After voters in unincorporated Cobb County voted in March to approve Sunday Sales, Kennesaw Mayor Mark Matthews says that more than 91,000 voters in Cobb cities were prevented from voting. “Those were voters that were purely disenfranchised because they weren’t given the opportunity to vote on a county-wide referendum,” Mathews said. The margin of victory for Sunday Sales approval was about 31,000 votes. County Commission Chair Tim Lee says the county attorney gave bad advice to the Elections Director.

Former State Rep. Roger Hines, who opposes Sunday Sales, filed suit on Friday to set aside the March election that approved Sunday Sales in Cobb County, saying the lawsuit is not about Sunday Sales but about the disenfranchisement of city voters. If a decision is reached in the lawsuit by May 6, a new election may be scheduled for July 31.

The MDJ asks whether the voting mishap was truly a mistake or if it might be a conspiracy to boost Cobb County turnout in the July 31 TSPLOST election

A special election will be held July 31, 2012 to fill the unexpired term of Marietta School Board member Logan Weber, who is resigning to take a job out of town.

Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott will hold a town hall meeting on March 14 at 7 PM in Vinings Estates at the Crescent Ridge Clubhouse, 655 Crescent Ridge Trail in Mableton; his colleague Commissioner Helen Goreham will hold a town hall meeting on April 19 at 7 PM at the Cobb Safety Village, 1220 Al Bishop Dr. in Marietta

John Stossell of Fox News will speak at a dinner for the Foundation for Economic Freedom on Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 7 PM at the Atlanta Renaissance Waverly. Tickets are $125 per person or $200 per couple. The Foundation for Economic Education is a free-market organization that promotes the sanctity of private property, individual liberty, the rule of law, the free market, and the moral superiority of individual choice and responsibility over coercion.

Local News

Cobb County Board of Eduction member David Morgan’s involvement in a proposed charter school in the county has become an issue, as the board spent 30 minutes discussing Morgan’s involvement with STEM Inventors Academy. One member of the board said that Morgan and his wife, State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, were listed in STEM application documents as members of the school’s board, but Morgan said he and his wife were not on any board with the school. PoliticalVine, based in Cobb County noted in an email last week that Rep. Morgan voted in favor of HR 1162, the Charter School constitutional amendment.

Forsyth County Commissioners amended their ethics code section on conflicts of interest in public transactions. The changes would permit transactions by the county with businesses in which an employee or elected official has a financial interest if five conditions are met. In a 3-2 decision, Commissioners Jim Boff and Brian Tam voted against the changes.

The Gainesville Times has a short “Five Questions” interview with Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle.

Georgia Department of Transportation and other Transportation News

The state is considering spending $900 million in reversible toll lanes along I-75 and I-575 in Cherokee and Cobb Counties, the largest project in state history.

Todd Long will move from Director of Planning for transportation, in which he played a key role in deciding which projects will be funded and in the TSPLOST planning, will move to a new office as Deputy Commissioner of Georgia DOT. Long was the first Transportation Planner, appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue after the move to bring more authority over GDOT into the Governor’s Office and Long was retained by Gov. Nathan Deal.

On Thursday, about 100 people attended a GDOT open house in Forsyth County and many voiced opposition to adding HOT lanes to 400 north of I-285.

Norfolk Southern's Conrail heritage locomotive

Norfolk Southern has rolled out the first locomotive painted in one of 19 heritage paint schemes celebrating its predecessor railroads, painted as a Conrail unit, and has added a Penn Central scheme to its heritage program. The program eventually will include tributes to the Southern Railway, Savannah & Atlanta Railway, and Central of Georgia Railway.

USDOT has released a report stating that the country will have to spend $101 billion annually, plus inflation, over the next 20 years to maintain the U.S. highway system, on the heels of Senate approval of a two-year $109 billion transportation spending plan.

Deepening the Savannah River channel to improve access to the Port of Savannah will benefit businesses across North Georgia.

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