Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 14, 2012

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Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 14, 2012

“Hope” is a 50 pound, 1.5 year old chocolate lab who was taken from a home where she was neglected and is available for adoption from the Walton County Animal Shelter. Hope has a great disposition, is heartworm negative and up-to-date on her vaccinations.

To the left is “Alice,” who we featured a couple of days ago and who is still available for adoption from Walton County. Supporters of Walton have pledged $175 to the licensed rescue that pulls Alice from the shelter. So you could get in touch with Angels Among Us Rescue and offer to foster or adopt Alice, and Angels would receive a donation of $175 after they pull her from the shelter. Give that some thought, please.

On Saturday from 11 AM to 3 PM, Angels Among Us Rescue will be holding an adoption day at the Forum on Peachtree Parkway at 5155 Peachtree Parkway in Norcross. Take the Dad in your life to pick out a new dog for Father’s Day and you’ll help save a life. For cat lovers, Angels Rescue will be holding a cat adoption day on the same day and time at Petco Johns Creek/Alpharetta, located at 10980 State Bridge Road.

Gwinnett County will open its shelter to rescue groups on Mondays and will also offer discounted vaccinations.

Today is Flag Day

The day, which is a public holiday in only a few spots across the country, has its beginnings in June 14, 1777. That’s when the Continental Congress replaced the British flag with the young nation’s first flag: 13 white stars on a blue field along with 13 red and white stripes.

Event Calendar at GaPundit.com

We’ve gotten the Event Calendar working on the website and invite political professionals, lobbyists, county parties, and other organizations to post their announcements. Email me for instructions on how to begin posting. We will be including events posted on the calendar in our morning emails. Anyone who is interested in helping maintain the calendar is also asked to let me know.

To check out the Event Calendar, hit this link or visit GaPundit.com and click on “Events” in the menu bar.

On June 18th from 6 to 8 PM, Senator Bill Heath will hold a fundraiser barbecue with Governor Deal at Bentwater Clubhouse, located at 3730 Cedarcrest Rd in Acworth. Tickets to the barbecue cost $10 each, and for $250 you can attend a private reception.

On June 20th, professional golfer and 2009 Open Champion Stewart Cink, and his wife Lisa, will hold a VIP barbecue and meet-and-greet for Kathy Schrader, candidate for Gwinnett County Superior Court. Cink is well-known not just for his golf skills but as a barbecue afficianado and he will be cooking the barbecue for the VIP dinner. Visit KathySchrader.com for more information or to RSVP.

On June 26th, from 5 to 7 PM, Senator David Shafer will hold a fundraiser hosted by Governor Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, and Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens at St. Ives Country Club, located at One St. Ives Country Club Dr. in Johns Creek.

There are a couple of great features with the Event Calendar that I hope you’ll find useful. Click on any event and it will have a link to Google Maps for the event venue, and if you’re doing it from your iPhone, you can automatically add the event to your own calendar.

How Abortion politics will affect the Casino Gambling ballot question

I posted this on the website yesterday; it shows the results of the casino gambling ballot question and suggests a strong correlation between whether someone calls themself “Pro-Life” or “Pro-Choice” and their vote on casino gambling.

With the Personhood Amendment on the Republican Primary ballot as a non-binding question, Pro-Life groups are already cranking up to turnout their voters, and their success in doing so will apparently affect the outcome on the casino gambling question too.

Georgia Republican Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Deal is pushing back against criticism by Grover Norquist over Deal’s prominence in the pro-T-SPLOST campaign.

”First of all, the pledge relates to new taxes that were going to be initiated by legislative action. And as you know, the only tax reform and tax changes that have been initiated since I’ve been governor have been to cut taxes. Last year was a major example of that, to be able to eliminate the sales tax on energy for manufacturing, so we can create more jobs. To increase by $2,000 the couples’ exemptions on their tax returns, to eliminate the marriage tax penalty.

“Now, for those who would interpret [the pledge] that way, I have two things to say. First of all, I never signed a pledge to give away my First Amendment rights. And my First Amendment rights are to advocate whatever I see fit. And as an individual, I do advocate for it.

“Secondly, as a governor, I am advocating for it because this is not a legislatively imposed tax. It is a tax increase that the people themselves will decide about. And for those who say otherwise, it seems to me that they would take away the right of the people to express their opinions of this importance.”

Jim Galloway offers the thought that the Grover Norquist pledge and the way it has been used against Republicans not just when endorsing voter-initiated tax hikes, but to stymie structural tax reform may lead candidates to shy away from all pledges. Josh Belinfante, who is running for Senate District 6 offers an eloquent analysis:

During my time in state government, I witnessed the negative impact of third-party campaign pledges.  Often, the voter is overlooked when an elected official is presented with a vote on an issue covered by a pledge.  Instead, a phone call may be made to an unelected person, sometimes in a different state, to determine which vote — “yes” or “no” — the pledge requires.  I believe the legislator should decide whether a vote is consistent with their campaign promise, and if a call is made, it should be directly to the voters.  In short, I will not allow any third party organization to stand between me and the voters of the Sixth Senate District.

I want to be held accountable by voters, not third parties, and I do not want to restrict my ability to consider bills which will ultimately benefit my constituents.

Debbie Dooley, of Tea Party Patriots, recently suggested that allowing the sales tax on gas to increase would be a more appropriate way to finance road expansion, leading T-SPLOST advocates to call her a tax-and-spend liberal. LOL.

Dooley said her comments at a recent Civic League forum were taken out of context and her position was skewed.

She said her organization supports a gas tax hike only if elected officials prove they can use the tax dollars wisely, there is no other option to raise money for road projects, and the increase comes only after gas prices have decreased.

“They have run a misleading campaign from the beginning,” Dooley said of the Citizens for Transportation Mobility campaign.

Mike Lowry has a similar take on the pro-T-SPLOST campaign’s promises about light rail.

The news story is that the CID folks came away appropriately impressed with how Charlotte had leveraged their light-rail system to attract Chiquita and other benefits.

What is of real interest is the real story, as told by the first person to comment [on the situation] – a former Charlotte resident who followed the entire development closely.

It turns out that Charlotte light rail project has become an enormous white elephant and Charlotte had to subsidize Chiquita substantially to get them to move and the light rail transit had little to do with it.

His concluding comment: “It is just sickening to watch the same lies spread over and over again. If Cobb wants to commit slo-mo suicide, then follow the lead of Charlotte, aka Detroit-on-the-Catawba.”

Georgia, we can do better than this. Let’s vote down the TSPLOST and get on to a real Plan B that can solve the state’s transportation problems.

Citizens Against T-SPLOST, headed by former Houston County Commission Chairman Ned Flanders Sanders, is criticizing the T-SPLOST for its region:

We’ve been addressing your transportation needs here in Houston County, so we don’t need a statewide tax for it,” Sanders said, adding that under the T-SPLOST, state officials, not local leaders would hold the control on local projects.

“Suppose you don’t generate enough money in 10 years to cover these projects,” he said. “Who decides which get deleted?”

Each county is better off passing its own local tax and taking care of its own needs and supporting the local economy, Sanders said.

Archie Hatfield of Columbus, GA, a descendant of the famously feuding Kentucky family remembers his grandfather telling him, “If you see a McCoy, shoot him.” His distant cousin, State Rep. Mark Hatfield, will be conducting a bus tour of Senate District 7 as part of his campaign today. The tour includes stops in Bacon, Charlton, Coffee, Pierce, and Ware Counties. Mmmm, Bacon. No word on whether the McCoys in the district will be joining the tour.

It looks like Democratic Republican PSC Candidate Pam Davidson is not the only one with resume-padding issues: Bibb County Superintendent Romain Dallemand will defend his resume before the Georgia Professional Standards Commission after a complaint by Darren Latch and Bill Knowles.

Georgia’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment was steady at 8.9 percent last month, marking the first time in ten months that Georgia unemployment has not declined. According to Labor Commissioner Mark Butler,

although the unemployment rate held steady, Georgia now has the fewest jobless workers receiving unemployment insurance benefits since the start of the recession in 2007. He also says the numbers of new layoffs and long-term unemployed are down.

Nationwide, new foreclosures picked up in May:

Default or scheduled-home-auction notices were filed for the first time against 109,051 homes last month. That’s an increase of 12 percent from April and up 16 percent versus May last year, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

Comments have been submitted on the federal court redistricting plan for Augusta Commission and Richmond County Board of Education seats.

Court Fights

Former State Ethics Commission Executive Director Stacey Kalberman has filed suit against the Commission, its current executive secretary and the Commission’s Chairman, who called the suit frivolous.

In her suit, Kalberman said she had discovered “troubling irregularities” in [Governor] Deal’s campaign accounts, including donations in excess of contribution limits and contribution reports with “systematic irregularities.”

The commission next meets Friday, and the agenda includes an update on the Deal investigation. Deal faces multiple complaints that accuse him of violating contribution limits and improperly paying for the campaign’s air travel.

Here’s an exhaustive treatment of the question of Deal’s campaign payments for private air travel; in short, the claims are garbage and should be dismissed. If anyone believes that the supposed subpoenas are anything but political grandstanding doesn’t understand what they’re talking about.

Governor Deal’s February appointment to Fulton County Superior Court of Robert McBurney, who headed the public corruption unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta when federal prosecutors were believed to be investigating Deal’s campaign, may mean that the probe was over at that point.

In interviews with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, McBurney made comments that could be interpreted as suggesting that whatever probe once existed is no longer active. However, both he and Justice Department officials refused to depart from the agency’s policy of not acknowledging that an investigation has been closed.

McBurney, 44, told the AJC  he sought and received clearance from top officials in the U.S. attorney’s office before applying for the $162,000-a-year judicial post. Agency officials reviewed all his active cases and found no conflict of interest, he said.

“At the time I considered applying for the opening … I had not worked on the matter that generated the subpoena for many months,” he said, adding that even when he was investigating he was “not the substantive decision maker.”

McBurney told the AJC that before he applied for the Fulton County Superior Court seat he consulted with top officials in his office, including U.S. Attorney Sally Yates.  He said he and his bosses conducted separate reviews of the active cases of the public corruption unit and separately determined there was no conflict that would prevent him from seeking the appointment from Deal.

“There was a consensus that there was no problem, there was no conflict,” McBurney told the AJC.

Asked if that meant there was no active probe of Deal, McBurney replied, “you can deduce from that what you will.”

Former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones will only appear before a grand jury investigating possible corruption in DeKalb County’s water and sewer department if he’s assured he’s not a target of a criminal investigation.

“Mr. Jones has nothing to hide and wants to be cooperative, but he does not want to be victimized by prosecutorial abuse, ‘word twisting,’ political ridicule or other improper tactics and motives,” Jones’ lawyer, Dwight Thomas, wrote in a letter to DeKalb District Attorney Robert James.

Other top county officials, including current CEO Burrell Ellis, have appeared in recent weeks before the grand jury. James convened it last winter to look into allegations stemming from a disputed tree service contract.

The DA told Channel 2 Action News in January the panel is “not just looking at people who may have had their hand in the cookie jar,” adding it would also look into “how deep and how pervasive an issue or problem may be. There may have been individuals inside Watershed Management, inside the county agencies, that were manipulating the bidding process. Such that when individuals obtained contracts or awards, they (didn’t) done so fairly.”

Thomas, however, said Jones’ subpoena to appear on July 27 was vague, and that the DA wanted his client to “create documents” that already exist with state and federal agencies and does not comply with state law.

“Nobody will tell me if he’s a target or not a target,” Thomas said, adding he will go to court to block the subpoena unless Jones gets the assurances he seeks.

Power Transmissions

The new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle will require an additional high power transmission line across 55 miles of the state.

“The existing transmission system is not adequate to reliably transport additional electrical power from Plant Vogtle to our customers,” Southern Co. spokesman Mark Williams said. “To support the additional generation, Georgia Power’s infrastructure must be upgraded.”

Planners are acquiring rights of way to assemble a continuous swath from the nuclear-power site in Burke County – through Jefferson and Warren counties – to Georgia Power’s Thomson Primary Substation in McDuffie County.

Anti-nuclear activists are pretending to care about potential cost overruns at Vogtle as a pretext to try to stop the expansion of nuclear energy.

Anti-nuclear campaigner Emily Kaiser told members of the state Public Service Commission, new reactors aren’t needed and will hurt rate-payers.

“I don’t understand why it is that we’re continuing to go forward with this project when there’s no reasonable expectation that it’ll stay within budget,” Kaiser said.

But a utility industry consultant working for the PSC testified, the project still has room to exceed its budget and still be an economic value to customers.

“It still has room to exceed the budget and still be economic,” said the consultant, Philip Hayet. “That’s what this analysis tells you.”

The Public Service Commission’s independent watchdog at Vogtle says the new units will be late in coming online due to mismanagement:

William Jacobs, the inspector of construction for the two new reactors, says the lack of long-term planning is unsustainable for a project of this magnitude.

“It really impacts the ability to manage the project because without a schedule you don’t know what activiteis are ahead of schedule, which ones are behind, which ones you need to add additional resources to to pull them back. It’s a short term fix but its certainly not a good situation.”

The original plan was to have the first reactor complete by April 2016 and the second by April 2017. Jacobs says disputes between Georgia Power and its contractors will lead to at least a year in delays.

Southern Company disputes nearly a billion dollars in cost overruns that were caused by contractors.

Early delays at the site, specifically the inability of the Shaw Group to design and build reactor components — modules — and deliver them on time, have led to increased costs, Jacobs said. Those issues have lingered for as long as two years.

Jacobs said Wednesday he thinks those concerns, as well as the dispute between the Shaw Group, Westinghouse and Georgia Power, may be resolved within the next six months.

“I think we’re getting close on the modules,” Jacobs said.

The PSC is expected to start reviewing those costs, but it’s unlikely they will impact customer bills right away.

“That [$400 million] claim is a pretty high-profile item right now,” Jacobs said. “If that claim gets settled, we’ll have a discussion on it.”

Jacobs said he has reviewed the details of the dispute “line by line” with one of Georgia Power’s attorneys and company nuclear officials. Georgia Power remains adamant it is not responsible for that claim.

The partnership between the US Department of Energy and private companies designed to support the licensing of the first new US nuclear reactors in 30 years is declaring victory and disbanding.

NuStart [Energy Development LLC] was funded by what was designed to be a 50-50 cost-shared program between the nuclear industry and the DOE.

Formed in 2004 with the goal of helping to lay the foundation for the next generation of nuclear plants in the U.S., the 10 utility members outlined two objectives. The first objective was to obtain a construction and operating license (COL) from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) using a never-been-tested licensing process developed in 1992; the second was to complete the design engineering for the Westinghouse AP1000 technology. Both objectives were achieved in the past six months as the AP1000 reactor was approved in December 2011 and the NRC issued the COL to Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) subsidiary Georgia Power’sPlant Vogtle in February.

Here’s a gratuitous photo of Georgia Power’s Tesla Roadster. I probably need a test drive to assess the potential impact of electric cars on the industry here in Georgia.

Ends & Pieces

San Francisco Pitcher Matt Cain threw the 22d perfect game in major league baseball against the Houston Astros.

The AJC looks at the costs of upgrading port facilities to deal with the New Panamax ships.

Savannah and Charleston, for example, compete for the same ships and plan to spend almost $4 billion upgrading harbors, docks and terminals. South Carolina politicians, who’ve plowed billions of dollars into the port of Charleston, vow to stop Savannah from deepening its river and harbor.

A South Carolina Supreme Court judge hinted last week that an environmental permit issued last year to allow the Savannah deepening may be illegal. A decision is expected later this summer.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers is weighing Georgia’s request to deepen the Savannah River to 47 feet at a cost to taxpayers of $652 million. Its final decision is expected this fall. The corps, which has preliminarily approved the Savannah project, reported in April that a 38-mile long deepening project will save shipping companies, retailers such as Atlanta’s Home Depot and U.S. and foreign manufacturers $174 million in transportation costs each year.

Taking a nap can increase your overall productivity. Don’t bother me between 3 and 4 PM.

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