Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for March 22, 2013

22
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for March 22, 2013

Special announcement from Fulton County Republican Party Chairman Roger Bonds:

Dr. Benjamin Carson will join the Fulton County Republican Party for a special reception and dinner on Thursday, April 25th, 2013 at the WestinHotel in Buckhead.

Dr. Carson has certainly awakened many minds recently,” said Roger Bonds, chairman of the Fulton County Republican Party. “Although he is an independent, we feel Dr. Carson represents the absolute core of our Republican values. It is our goal to spread that message through Dr. Carson’s participation in our Spring Reception,” said Fulton County GOP Chairman Roger Bonds.

“Nothing tells the story of Republican values better than a grounded, successful, self-made, spiritual man who is an independent thinker and not ashamed of his success. And through that success, he created a wonderful foundation through which he can give back to the community,” said Bonds.

“We are truly delighted to have him join us for dinner and provide the opportunity for others to learn more about his life story and philosophies.”

6:00 pm Sponsor Reception & Private Audience with Dr. Carson (sponsor levels TBA)
7:30 pm Seated Dinner
8:15 pm Remarks by Dr. Carson

Tickets to the dinner and speech cost $150 per person and will go on sale the week of March 25, 2013 on FultonGOP.org.

While we’re at it, here’s another Save the Date. We’ve learned that Congressman Phil Gingrey will be holding a fundraiser in Vinings on March 28th. We’ve heard rumors it’s a fundraiser for a Senate campaign, and we’ve also heard different. And by different, I mean evasive. But, subject to overall contribution limits, a check written today to a Congressional campaign can be converted by the recipient to a Senate campaign.

Senate Rules Calendar

HB 443 NOTICE OF MOTION TO RECONSIDER – Fulton County Magistrate Court; successor to chief judge currently serving shall be appointed by Governor; provide (SLGO-56th)Willard-51st
HB 106 General appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2013 -June 30, 2014 (Substitute)(APPROP-4th) Ralston-7th
HB 209 Pharmacists and pharmacies; revise definition of “security paper”; revise requirements (Substitute)(H&HS-11th) Watson-166th
HB 318 Georgia Tourism Development Act; revise certain definitions; provisions(Substitute)(FIN-54th) Stephens-164th
HB 131 HOPE; dual credit courses; treated the same as advanced placement and international baccalaureate courses for determining eligibility; provide (Substitute)(ED&Y-45th) Clark-101st
HB 175 Covenants and warranties; certain covenants run with the land as a matte of public policy of this state; provide (JUDY-29th) Hightower-68th
HB 194 Public utilities; venue for actions against gas companies; provide (JUDY-54th) Powell-171st
HB 197 Ad valorem tax; land subject to a forest land conservation use covenant; provide taxation (Substitute)(FIN-20th) Powell-171st
HB 142 Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission; change certain provisions (Substitute)(RULES-53rd) Ralston-7th
HB 122 Sexual Offender Registration Review Board; review and utilize records of Board of Pardons and Paroles in making assessments; authorize (JUDYNC-9th) Tanner-9th
HB 336 Civil practice; tort claims arising out of use of motor vehicles; provide for certain pre-suit settlement offers (JUDY-54th) Powell-171st
HB 359 Unclaimed property; commissioner of revenue to deposit certain funds in state treasury; require(Substitute)(FIN-54th) Nimmer-178th
HB 372 HOPE; grant at technical college or university institutions; revise eligibility (Substitute)(H ED-54th) Coomer-14th
HB 402 Conservation; shore protection and coastal marshlands protection; revise various provisions (NR&E-20th) Stephens-164th
HB 384 Transportation, Department of; local governing authority designating public streets or portions thereof for combined use of motorized carts and regular vehicle traffic; modify provisions (TRANS-7th) Roberts-155th
HR 73 Word, Mr. Lathan Rydell; compensate (APPROP-38th) Hugley-136th

Senate Meeting Calendar

8:30 AM ETHICS 125 CAP
9:00 AM NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT 450 CAP
9:00 AM SPECIAL JUDICIARY 125 CAP
1:00 PM REGULATED INDUSTRIES & UTILITIES 307 CLOB
2:00 PM HEALTH & HUMAN SERV-CANCELLED 450 CAP
3:00 PM JUDICIARY NON CIVIL-CANCELLED 307 CLOB
3:00 PM RETIREMENT -CANCELLED 310 CLOB
4:00 PM AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS-CANCELLED 310 CLOB
4:00 PM JUDICIARY – CANCELLED 307 CLOB

House Rules Calendar

SB 96 State Courts, Solicitors-General of; part-time solicitor-general; engage in private practice of law; not represent defendants in criminal matters in such solicitor-general’s state court (JudyNC-Weldon-3rd) Mullis-53rd
SB 158 Temporary Medical Consent Guardianship; Physician Order for Life-sustaining Treatment; change certain signatures (Substitute) (Judy-Welch-110th) Orrock-36th
SB 194 Natural Resources Dept.; include an exemption for restoration of certain barns; promote Georgia tourist destinations (NR&E-Neal-2nd) Mullis-53rd
SB 234 Insurance; limited licenses to sell travel insurance; comprehensive revision of provision; issuance and regulation (Ins-Rogers-29th) Jones-25th
SB 1 Child’s Health Insurance Information and Records; provide that both parents have equal access (Judy-Atwood-179th) Ligon, Jr.-3rd
SB 101 Firearms; regulate the sale, use and possession in this state (Substitute)(PS&HS-Jasperse-11th) Ginn-47th
SB 122 Drivers’ Licenses; authorize the issuance of a temporary driving permit; non-citizen applicant whose license has expired; filed extension (MotV-Douglas-78th) Hill-6th
SB 134 Controlled Substances; revise the definition of “prescriber” (JudyNC-Weldon-3rd) Carter-1st
SB 204 Appeal and Error; limit the scope of judgments/orders; child custody cases; direct appeal (JudyNC-Ramsey-72nd) Cowsert-46th
SB 231 Georgia Driver’s Education Commission; additional sums collected on fines; extend the sunset provisions (Substitute)(MotV-Rice-95th) Loudermilk-14th

House Meeting Calendar

TBD Floor Session (LD37) HOUSE CHAMBER (9:30am)
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 506 CLOB
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM AGRICULTURE & CONSUMER AFFAIRS 403 CAP
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM Utilities Subcommittee of Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications 515 CLOB
8:30 AM – 9:30 AM MARTOC 406 CLOB- CANCELED
9:00 AM – 9:30 AM RULES 34 CAP

Ethics

The Senate Rules Committee unveiled its version of ethics reform in a substitute to Speaker Ralston’s HB 142, which was recommended for passage by the full body.

Senator Josh McKoon praised the new measure:

The Senate substitute to House Bill 142 makes several important improvements. First and foremost it keeps faith with the voters by establishing a $100 gift cap. It eliminates all the loopholes in HB 142 that would have allowed for continued unlimited giving.

It also prohibits foreign travel and it prohibits lobbyists from paying for travel by staff and family. All of these changes make for a much better bill that keeps faith with Georgia voters.

That last part about foreign travel and travel by staff and family may be a shot across the Speaker’s bow.

From the Atlanta Business Chronicle:

“It doesn’t mean [lobbyists and lawmakers] can’t meet,” Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, said in presenting the Senate’s take on ethics reform to the panel. “[But lobbyists] have to be identified through the $100 cap.”

The bill, which heads next to the Senate floor, puts the Senate on a collision course with the House, which passed legislation next month banning gifts worth any amount from lobbyists to lawmakers.

Mullis noted that 87.2 percent of Georgia Republican voters supported a $100 cap on lobbyist gift-giving in a non-binding question on last summer’s primary ballot.

“This gets us a large step closer to what the voters voted on last summer,” William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said after Thursday’s committee vote.

Mullis also pointed out that many of the witnesses who testified Tuesday at a hearing on the House bill asked senators to take out the restrictions on lobbyist registration.

“This bill listened to those people who came here,” he said.

With this year’s legislative session due to end next Thursday, getting a bill passed promises to be an uphill task, especially with the House and Senate pushing vastly different versions of ethics reform.

But Perry said he remains hopeful.

“I don’t see how the House turns away a stronger bill,” he said.

Assuming the full Senate passes the bill, which it is scheduled to vote on today, the next step would be for the House to vote on whether to accept the Senate changes; if the House doesn’t agree to the Senate substitute, three members of each chamber will meet in a conference committee to attempt to reconcile the versions. It may be no coincidence that both a conference committee and a full set of pallbearers includes six members.

Speaker Ralston was not amused with the Senate changes and cranked up the anti-Senate rhetoric.

House Speaker David Ralston said he believed the Senate has “diluted” his bill, House Bill 142, which banned most gifts from lobbyists to individual lawmakers. The Senate provision exchanges that for a $100 cap, and would eliminate most of the exemptions in Ralston’s plan allowing unlimited spending on groups of officials.

“The thing I’m most concerned about is the clock is becoming a factor here,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, echoing grousing among House members that the Senate did not move quickly enough. “It doesn’t leave a lot of time for us to look at these things. This is not an issue that popped on the radar on Jan. 13. It’s been out there.”

Ralston has steadfastly opposed a gift cap as gimmicky and has openly mocked the Senate rule. While he said he needed to read the changes thoroughly, Ralston showed no signs of softening that stance Thursday.

“They seem determined to want to have lobbyists spend money on them,” he said of the Senate. “I haven’t seen a cap that works. I don’t know if this one works.”

Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, said he realizes the two sides have a lot of work to do and not much time before the first part of the two-year session ends. The Legislature works on a two-year cycle.

“My fear now is we’ll have a stalemate,” he said, “but we’ll have next session.”

Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter is investigating expense reimbursement to former Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau that total more than $23,000 and have been called into question recently.

Other Notable Legislation

A notable addition to the 2014 state budget, due on the Senate floor today, is $10 million for the state vulture venture capital fund.

The Senate Appropriations Committee inserted $10 million into next year’s state budget for Invest Georgia, the first installment of a proposed $100 million fund aimed at helping keep bioscience and technology startup companies in Georgia once they begin to mature.

The full FY2014 budget totals $19.8 billion.

The Senate passed the major Juvenile Justice Reform bill that started in the House.

Senators passed legislation introduced on behalf of Gov. Nathan Deal that would offer more community-based sentencing options as an alternative to putting nonviolent criminals behind bars.

Georgia now spends $91,000 a year to house each young offender in a secure youth detention center, Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, Deal’s Senate floor leader, said during a brief presentation to his fellow senators.

After spending that huge sum, more than 60 percent of those youths reoffend within three years of being released, he said.

Senate Bill 236 to require some insurers to inform policyholders of rate increases caused by ObamaCare passed the house after amendment.

A bill requiring some businesses to post flyers about how to seek help for victims of human trafficking passed the Senate.

Attorney General Sam Olens lauded Senate passage of the House bill to fight Pill Mills, which have become an increasing problem in Georgia.

Road Trip – Moving Stories

Free at last – the State Road and Tollway Authority has announced that the tolls on GA-400 will be removed on November 21st.

HOT Lanes no longer hot topic – Georgia DOT held a public hearing on additional HOT lanes in Gwinnett last night. Except that they’re not calling them HOT lanes, and they’re not as hot a topic. From 11Alive:

The HOT lanes were met with outrage by drivers when they were first introduced in October 2011, but Georgia Department of Transportation officials stress that this project wouldn’t take away any existing lanes.

“This is very different. We are actually doing a new build here, so this would be brand new lanes, brand new construction. It’s not converting anything, so it will just be something added rather than taken away,” said GDOT spokesperson Jill Goldberg.

Keith Nabb was one of the people who lead the fight against the current hot lanes, but he says he actually could support this extension.

“I can live with building new lanes. I think everybody’s OK with that, but taking existing lanes is insulting because that’s public property,” Nabb said.

And the Gwinnett Daily Post:

The crowd was light at Thursday’s open house on the project

Eighteen months ago, officials opened the express lane project on I-85, converting a carpool lane in an attempt to create a reliable trip time. The price of the toll varies to create a 45 mph trip as much as possible for people who choose to pay.

Over time, the price of the toll has increased, with peaks at $6.50 for the entire 16-mile trip.

Winder resident Tom Greenlee said the system isn’t fair.

“I think the state’s stealing our money,” said Greenlee, who has yet to pay the toll despite a daily commute to Buckhead. “I don’t think I should have to. My federal tax dollars paid for the current pavement.”

Greenlee said his commute time has increase since the tolls began, and he knows of people who have stopped carpooling since the “free” passage in the lane has increased from two per car to three. He called the system discriminatory.
“It’s not working. It’s not relieving congestion,” he said, adding that he believes the state gas tax dollars earmarked for the extension project would be better spent on a fix to the interchange with I-285 or an extension of MARTA rail lines into Gwinnett.

“It’s strictly about raising money for the state,” he said. “I don’t mind them raising money, but they are doing it at the expense of my time, which costs me money.”

With another public information set for 4 to 7 p.m. next Thursday at Braselton’s Municipal and Court Building, officials said many details have not been determined for the project, including the location of access points for the lanes.

If it moves forward, another set of open houses will be held next year before construction begins, officials said. The lanes could open in 2017.

The endangered Indiana bat is the latest invasion of north Georgia from Tennessee and may stall roadbuilding projects by GDOT.

In May of last year one small endangered brown bat, unhappy with her eastern Tennessee cave, embarked on a very expensive trip to Georgia.

Her detection here in a tree in Ellijay has triggered federal rules that are now set to delay $459 million worth of Georgia road projects up to a year and a half, the state Department of Transportation’s staff announced to an incredulous DOT board this week, in order that the DOT can study the projects and determine whether they injure the species and its habitat.

The affected projects cover a swath of north Georgia reaching the borders of Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett Counties, and the studies alone may cost $8 million or more.

That’s if no other such bats – the Indiana Bat – are found. If they are, more delays and costly work may occur, as the state is required to take conservation measures to protect the habitat if the project will “harm, kill or harass” the bats, said DOT Chief Engineer Russell McMurry.

Panama’s Minister for Canal Affairs and Panama Canal Authority Chairman Roberto Roy told Governor Deal and Mayor Kasim Reed that Georgia should do everything it can to deepen river access to the Port of Savannah.

“It is a critical issue for Georgia and for Savannah,” Roy said in an interview outside the governor’s office. “The reason is that the shipping fleet is totally changing. It is not only a matter of the ships being bigger The key is that the most important variable is the fuel costs.”

Roy said the new ships can carry more containers, which makes them more energy efficient with significantly lower fuel costs per container.

“In order for Savannah to compete, it needs to accommodate the big ships. If Savannah doesn’t, other ports on the Eastern seaboard will. Norfolk already does. It’s critical for Savannah to start dredging as soon as possible.”

Roy, who will spend Friday in Savannah to meet officials from the Georgia Ports Authority, understands now it is largely up to the federal government to invest in the deepening of the Savannah port.

Georgia and the National Republican Party

Jeremy Redmon of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that Georgia Republicans are sticking to their guns on immigration reform as the party at the national level grapple with the issue in the aftermath of the 2012 Presidential fiasco.

The reason for the state-national disconnect is simple, said Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University: Republicans have been tremendously successful in Georgia and are sticking with what has worked for them. The GOP dominates Georgia’s congressional delegation and controls the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the state Legislature.

“If they are on a path to success, they don’t want to move in a different direction,” Black said. “That’s the usual way you do politics.”

But like the rest of the nation, Georgia is quickly becoming more diverse. So Republicans here could be taking risks by sticking with a hardliner approach to illegal immigration, said Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia.

Georgia Republicans, Bullock said, are “concentrating on the short-term gains versus the long-term needs. Longer term, Georgia is going to become a majority-minority state.”

It’s an excellent piece that Republicans on all sides of the immigration issue should read in its entirety.

Another area of tension between Georgia Republicans and those at the national level was on display in yesterday’s votes on the federal budget.

Georgia Republican Members of Congress position themselves for a possible primary for the U.S. Senate with votes on battling budget bills. Yesterday, three of those in the spotlight issued statements:

Congressman Tom Price – voted YES on the Ryan Budget

“The House of Representatives has passed a responsible, balanced budget that ensures government serves the people in an effective and accountable manner, instead of continuing to stand in the way of their dreams”

Congressman Phil Gingrey – voted NO on the Ryan Budget

“I have opposed the continuing resolution because it does not defund Obamacare and — consistent with this position — I voted against the Ryan budget because it left the enormous Obamacare taxes in place.”

Congressman Paul Broun – voted NO on the Paul Ryan Budget

“Instead of enacting real spending cuts or taking steps to curb our fiscal irresponsibility, Chairman Ryan’s proposal in fact encourages spending growth. The ‘Path to Prosperity’ still grows government spending by 3.4% each year, compared to the president’s path, which is 5% a year. In just ten years, it would spend $41 trillion – not much less than the $46 trillion that the president’s plan would allow. The mentality of ‘increase spending, but not as much as the other guy,’ is what got us into this mess in the first place, and it has to stop.”

Also voting against the Ryan budget: Democratic Congressman John Barrow.

RollCall notes that Georgia is poised for the highest Congressional turnover in the country in 2014.

Benjamin Carson

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