Georgia Political News for April 4, 2012, Second Edition


Georgia Political News for April 4, 2012, Second Edition

Photo courtesy of Porsche Cars North America.


Contrary to the subject line in some of today’s morning emails, it is not March 4, 2012, but April 4th. Oops.

More Campaigns and Elections

We have received unconfirmed word that Jamie Bennett won the runoff election for Haralson County Commission in District 2 with 343 votes (79%) to 89 votes for Lorie Morgan. Hat tip to Joe Corley of the Haralson County GOP.

Cobb County voters, including those who live in municipalities, will return to the polls on July 31 for a re-vote on allowing Sunday Sales.

The legislature’s failure to pass new maps for Cobb County Commission and Board of Education districts has angered the chairs of both local political parties. According to the Marietta Daily Journal

“I’m just disappointed that they used Cobb County’s map for a political ballgame,” said Joe Dendy, chairman of the Cobb Republican Party. “There was no cause for it at all. It did not help the citizens of this county at all.”

Melissa Pike, chair of the Cobb Democratic Party, said one of the problems with not having a new map is that potential candidates don’t know if they live in Ott’s district or Thompson’s.

“It’s a complete mess, and once again we’re opening ourselves up for liability, but here we’re about to have another election with Sunday sales,” Pike said. “Let’s see how much money our county can throw when our county’s in the red.”

Mark LaJoye has announced his campaign for Muscogee County Sheriff as a Republican, running against Democratic incumbent Sheriff John Darr and challenger Pam Brown (D), who previously sued the Sheriff’s Department for discrimination and received a $26,394 settlement.

Woodall and Broun to hold Town Hall Meeting

Congressman Rob Woodal (R) and Paul Broun (R) will bhold a Town Hall Meeting at 7 PM on Tuesday, April 10th at the Walton County Courthouse in Monroe.


The Times-Herald (Newnan) writes that Governor Nathan Deal’s leadership is getting things done in Georgia.

Around the state Capitol the word is Deal’s door is always open. He listens and is receptive to ideas and will adjust his policy proposals to account for new information.

“He’s just got the skills to get it done and make everybody feel like they were a part,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams, R-Lyons.

That’s leadership, and Nathan Deal is showing he has the leadership and people skills to get things done.

The Marietta Daily Journal lauds Attorney General Sam Olens and the General Assembly for passing Sunshine Law reforms.

Olens is to be thoroughly commended for successfully persuading the state Legislature last week to overwhelmingly pass a rewrite of the state’s Open Records and Open Meetings law that leaves it significantly stronger. It marks the first time it has been strengthened since the era of Gov. Roy Barnes more than a decade ago.

All in all, the strengthened sunshine laws strike a balance between ensuring the doings of government are accessible to all Georgians and the need to protect the confidentiality of sensitive information.

Moreover, the passage of the new law helps Olens fulfill a major plank of his 2010 election race for AG, during which he pledged to strengthen the Sunshine Laws.

Olens and the Legislature have done their parts — and Gov. Nathan Deal should waste no time in signing it.

The Savannah Morning News writes that maturity is lacking in the Georgia Senate.

Mr. Cagle, a Republican who’s in his second term as lieutenant governor, is almost as much of a figurehead as Mark Taylor was. Indeed, when you click on the Senate’s website, you don’t see the smiling face of Mr. Cagle. You see the mug of State Sen. Tommie Williams, the current President Pro Tem.

Right before the start of the 2011 session, senators voted to strip Mr. Cagle of much of his powers and decentralize authority through a committee of senior GOP senators. That panel decides who gets to be a committee chairman — a big prize that creates a lot of little chieftains.

But here’s the downside to this system: When there’s no one person in charge, no one is in charge. Consequently, doing the people’s business can suffer.

A case in point is the conduct of State Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville.

Mr. Balfour chairs the powerful Senate Rules Committee. That panel acts like a control valve that can stop or start a bill like a faucet on a water pipe.

Morris News Service reporter Walter Jones, who covers the Georgia Legislature, wrote Sunday that Mr. Balfour “is known to be vindictive, holding House bills hostage until his proposals get to the floor.” By contrast, Mr. Jones wrote, Mr. Balfour’s counterpart in the House, Rules Committee Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun doesn’t sponsor any bills. That rightly eliminates conflicts of interest, vindictiveness and backdoor deal-making.

Mr. Jones wrote that one of Mr. Balfour’s pet bills, which would limit losses by wheeler-dealer developers when their investments go sour, might have died a faster (and well-deserved) death in the House this year. But House members were afraid he’d stop their bills in retaliation. So they waited until the final hours of the session last week to let it die.

That’s not legislating. That’s more like high school.

Mr. Williams, who’s an able lawmaker, and the GOP caucus that rules the Senate roost must do a better job of leading the upper chamber. Job 1 would be picking a new senator to head the Rules Committee. Failing that, Job 2 is giving the reins of power back to Mr. Cagle. He can’t do any worse.

Republican US Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss write in the AJC that

The twin engines that drive the economy of Georgia and most of the Southeast are Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the Port of Savannah. We take seriously the provision in the U.S. Constitution that grants Congress the power to regulate commerce, including our navigational waterways and ports.

Deepening the port will protect existing jobs and create ones as these larger vessels call in the Port of Savannah. Economic growth throughout the East Coast and Midwest could be dramatically weakened if the port cannot be expanded to accommodate the larger vessels that will soon dominate ocean commerce.

At a time when the administration seeks to invest in projects that will create jobs in America, this project in Savannah is a perfect fit. Studies show that expanding the port would only help the goals of creating jobs as well as stimulating economic growth.

Independent studies conducted by the U.S. Army Engineer Institute for Water Resources and the Center of Expertise for Deep Draft Navigation show this investment in Savannah will have a benefit-to-cost ratio of nearly five to one. For every dollar spent, the economic benefit is five times as many dollars.

David Kyler,  executive director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast on St. Simons Island wrote in the AJC that more study is required before moving forward on the Savannah River dredging.

Baruch Feigenbaum of the Reason Foundation wrote that a public-private partnership is the solution for expanding capacity at the Port of Savannah.

The deepening of the Panama Canal is going to bring great economic benefits to ports capable of handling larger ships. Will those benefits go to Miami, Jacksonville or Charleston? Or will the Port of Savannah be able to take advantage of the opportunity and bring the economic rewards to Georgia?

Instead of sitting and hoping for the deficit-riddled federal government to find hundreds of millions of dollars for the deepening project, Georgia needs to pursue a public-private partnership deal that can move the project forward right now and benefit everyone in the region.

Finally, a man serving time wrote a public apology to the City of Columbus.

Not wanting to face homelessless at my age of 54 and with the ailments I was burdened with, I robbed a bank to get myself locked up. I felt that in prison I would at least receive some degree of care as a prisoner.

It was a stupid choice borne of desperation. A choice I now regret but can do nothing to undo. I apologize to everyone who was affected by my thoughtless crime. I truly am very sorry.

T-SPLOST Campaign Begins

Apparently, the direct mail I received the past week didn’t herald the kickoff of the T-SPLOST campaign. The AJC tells us that

The full campaign kicks off Wednesday for one of the most important votes in metro Atlanta’s history.

It’s going to be a long fight. The 10-county referendum for a 1 percent sales tax for transportation takes place July 31. Bolstered by better fundraising than they expected, advocates plan to blanket the metro area with four months of advertisements.

The campaign for the referendum, organized by business and civic groups such as the Metro Atlanta Chamber, is divided into two parts. “Education” advertisements already started two weeks ago. “Advocacy” advertisements, a much bigger portion of the privately funded campaign, will start airing Wednesday, according to campaign officials.

Opponents don’t have a comparable campaign, but they’re doing what they can.

Bob Ross, an opponent in Fayette County, said the ad addresses exactly the most important issue, roads — but has no right to do so when slightly less than half of the referendum’s project list is composed of roads. Just more than half goes to mass transit.

“I agree we’ve got a traffic problem,” said Ross, who, like many of the opponents, is a tea party member. “My concern is over half the money is coming from what’s pitched as a solution, but has very little impact on road congestion.”

Backers of the referendum say the transit will get drivers off the roads, and offer everyone more choices.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Taxes

Some retailers believe that taxing internet sales will level the playing field for traditional stores.

The owner of Atlanta’s Showcase Photo and Video said he regularly sees customers come into his store, learn about cameras and video equipment and then head home to buy what they want online. The difference is sales taxes.

Khoury recounts this encounter with a customer who was on a waiting list for a $3,000 camera. “He said, ‘I am having a hard time paying $240 more for that camera here than I can get it for online,’” Khoury said. “This is a long-standing customer; this is a guy who has been loyal to us for years.”

State leaders two weeks ago pushed a tax overhaul through the General Assembly that includes the Internet sales tax for companies that don’t currently collect it. Supporters of the provision, taking Khoury’s side, cite “e-fairness.”

“It is hard to be competitive when you have to charge 8 percent more than your competition right off the bat,” Khoury said.

Brian Robinson, [Governor Deal's] spokesman, said, “It levels the playing field for the Georgia job creators who pay not only sales tax but also property taxes here.

“Eventually, it’s an issue that the federal government will have to address, but until then, we don’t think it’s right to give out-of-state businesses a huge advantage over Georgia’s brick-and-mortar stores.”


Porsche Awesomest Brand

Kelley Blue Book announced that Porsche is The Coolest Brand among automakers and Best Performance Brand. Those two things are actually synonymous. Porsche Cars North America is based in Atlanta.

Photo courtesy of Porsche Cars North America.

Porsche also presented the North American debut of the Cayenne Diesel, which has 240 horsepower and 406 ft-lb of torque, and the redesigned 2013 Boxster at the New York Auto Show.

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