Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for August 8, 2013

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for August 8, 2013

I’m working on updating the 2014 Campaigns page on the website, so that you can find out about announced candidates for United State Senate, Congress, and state and local offices. Where available, we’re linking to the candidate websites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. If you have updates or announcements, or even gossip for us, please email me.

Events

A quick plug for the Greater Fayette Republican Women’s Club, whose pot luck I’ll be visiting tonight. They meet tonight for a covered dish dinner at 6:30pm in the Tyrone Depot, 847 Senoia Road, Tyrone, Ga.

Schedule allowing, I’ll try to attend a meeting on “Seeing Through Government Transparency & Solar Energy — Are we getting burned?” on Saturday, August 11th at 11 AM at Olde Towne Tavern and Grille, 835 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Rd in Lawrenceville, Ga. Sabrina Smith will discuss her open records lawsuit over taxpayer support by the Gwinnett County government to private organizations. Joel Aaron of Americans for Prosperity will discuss a recent vote by the Georgia Public Service Commission to add more solar power to Georgia’s generation portfolio.

Defending the American DreamAugust 30th and 31st, I’ll be attending Americans for Prosperity’s Defending the American Dream Summit in Orlando.

Speakers at the Summit will include Florida Governor Rick Scott, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, United States Senators Ted Cruz (TX), Marco Rubio (FL), and Ron Johnson (WI).

You can still register for the Defending the American Dream Summit by visiting the website. There are also affordable options for transportation on the AFP bus from Georgia, leaving from several locations.

At the same time, AFP’s RightOnline conference for bloggers, social media activists, and citizens interested in the use of new media for promoting liberty and free market thinking will be going on and I’ll be on a panel discussing “Cronyism & Capitalism.” There’s so much going on in Orlando that weekend, you won’t want to miss it.

Doug Everett on Solar Power, Conservative Principles

Public Service Commissioner Doug Everett has published an op-ed in both the Gwinnett Daily Post and the Marietta Daily Journal about his vote to add solar to the state’s energy production portfolio, and the conservative principles that guided him. It’s worth reading for a perspective on how Georgia’s families and businesses can be protected from rate increases due to more solar power being produced.

Three criteria that must be satisfied before I will vote for additional solar power: First, no new monopoly service provider is created; second, no upward pressure on rates is exerted; and third, nothing violates the Territorial Services Act, which divides responsibility for serving electric customers among providers.
This is why I joined Commissioners Chuck Eaton and Stan Wise (of east Cobb) in supporting two amendments to ensure that Georgia’s consumer ratepayers and businesses are protected from upward pressure on electric rates.
The first requires an independent monitor oversee procurement of solar power under the program to ensure that ratepayers are protected. The second requires that any solar added under the new program be approved by the PSC and does not put upward pressure on electric rates. These two amendments ensure that no extra costs will be imposed on Georgia’s families as a result of this program.

Today, the greatest cause of upward pressure on electric rates is the Obama Administration’s EPA, with its war on coal and unpredictable environmental standards which exert an unprecedented upward pressure on energy costs. Solar power, deployed conservatively, and with procedures in place to contain costs, can hedge against the financial risk caused by federal regulation.

Recently, I’ve read in several sources the sentiment that Georgia Power should be made to “eat the cost overruns on Plant Vogtle,” where two new nuclear reactors are being built. From Tom Crawford, as an example:

[T]he PSC began its review of more than $730 million worth of cost overruns on the Vogtle nuclear reactors, which are being built by Georgia Power, electric membership cooperatives and municipal power companies.

Georgia Power believes that these cost increases should be passed along to customers in the form of higher rates. PSC members, on the other hand, are talking about such radical notions as requiring the utility to eat those costs and make shareholders pay for the Vogtle mistakes.

 

Commissioner Everett addresses this issue and makes it clear the issue is not as simple as a political calculation, but requires that the PSC adhere to the principles of the rule of law and separation of powers.

PSC decisions are not made simply because we side with consumers or the power company. Our decisions must meet specific standards under state law.

When a utility buys fuel to produce power, unless it spends money foolishly, it is entitled by law to reimbursement. Our decision is limited to whether the decision-making was so poor as to have been “imprudent.”
If we wrongly deny a utility company recovery of fuel costs, we would not only be cheating them in order to artificially lower rates, which will eventually have to be paid, we would also be liable to being overturned in a lawsuit.
Many of the factors determining whether Georgia Power can recover more expenses for Plant Vogtle must be decided through a quasi-judicial process in which the standard of review was whether an expense was incurred prudently. As a matter of law, we cannot substitute our own decisions made with the benefit of hindsight for those made by the company. Nor are we allowed to decide on the basis of whether we like or dislike the parties before us, or whether we approve or disapprove of nuclear power in general. Our decisions must be supported by facts and evidence presented during formal hearings.

This goes to the principle in the Georgia Constitution that the General Assembly has the power to decide the authority that the Public Service Commission wields. If Republican Public Service Commissioners decide on the basis of their own political gain which laws passed by the General Assembly they wish to follow, and which laws they will break with impunity, they will be no better than those in Washington, DC who believe the law shouldn’t apply to them, or that they deserve an exemption from the laws they passed and expect the rest of us to follow.

Disclaimer: I advise Doug in his re-election campaign.

Organizing for America to wade into Georgia?

The Obama campaign arm nonprofit organization Organizing for America is looking into ways it can help Michelle Nunn in the 2014 Georgia Senate race, according to Politico.com.

OFA Chairman Jim Messina has also held discussions with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee about mobilizing Obama supporters in Republican-held districts in races the party hopes will be competitive, according to a Democratic official.

It’s a dramatic step for the group, founded in January, to help promote the president’s agenda. OFA says it’s not endorsing specific candidates or participating in “electoral politics,” but by telling donors that its work will directly help Democratic candidates, OFA is jumping over a partisan boundary it previously had said it wouldn’t cross.

Exactly how OFA will assist candidates has yet to be determined, according to people who have spoken with Carson. But former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes said they talked about ways to help Nunn.

“We did talk about her race,” Barnes said. “It was about helping her and everybody here. We need [OFA] to become involved in registering people who are now turning to us. That includes white women, Hispanics and, of course, African-Americans. I was encouraging him to become more and more involved. I told him, ‘Y’all ought to get involved in this race.’”

OFA spokeswoman Katie Hogan said the group “is not coordinating on targeted districts with the DCCC” and isn’t working on any specific race.

“Organizing for Action does not participate in electoral politics. We are not partisan,” Hogan said. “We are an issue advocacy group that works on the agenda the American people voted for in 2012 from a better bargain for the middle class to the comprehensive immigration reform that will grow our economy.”

Later, OFA said they won’t be involved in campaign politics. From Huffinton Post:

In his interview, Carson said voter registration was not happening. He said OFA, which operates as a 501c4 social welfare organization, will support elected officials and candidates, but not through an electoral prism.

Rather, Carson said, the group would promote specific policy issues and highlight and support lawmakers who back the issues. So while Nunn may indeed benefit from OFA, the group’s backing won’t be in the form of a check or a registration drive. Rather, it will be in issue ads that mention specific policy positions. Carson highlighted some recent examples.

“When John McCain (R-Ariz.) supported background checks, we did a thank-you event outside his office,” Carson said. “When [Rep.] Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) made steps in a big way towards comprehensive immigration reform, we had volunteers tweeting their thanks at him.”

With an email list of supporters that some estimates say includes multiple millions, OFA does have the potential to tip the political scales. And a large bulk of its work will undoubtedly benefit Democratic causes, with its mission to promote Obama’s agenda. But as Carson sees it, candidates would benefit from OFA’s work, rather than OFA’s work being done to benefit candidates.

That probably also means trashing Congressmen who don’t vote with the Obama administration. A concerted campaign to drive up the negative numbers of the eventual GOP nominee.
Back to Politico, for more on what that will mean:
OFA said it would be active in districts where it will compete, driving up negatives on congressional Republicans through next summer, a Democratic official said, adding that no specific states or districts have been chosen.
“The single best thing they can do for Democratic prospects in 2014 is to organize critically important communities in [a] targeted district and focusing them on what the Republican member does,” the [Democratic party] official said.

State and Local Government Operations

Growing Georgia, which covers agriculture, Georgia’s largest industry, has an interesting article for tax wonks about several tax increases that are coming online and how they will affect the industry.

Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree has come up with an innovative way to stick it to the citizens raise taxes to support his department: a “Continually Partrolled District” in which property owners pay protection money additional taxes to fund more enforcement. But one large property owner is speaking out against the protection racket proposal. From the Augusta Chronicle:

The general manager of one of the largest properties within Sheriff Richard Roundtree’s proposed Continually Patrolled District says his company already does enough, and pays enough.

Roundtree’s proposal, to tax landowners within the boundaries of the former Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative an extra six mills to keep six additional law enforcement officers on the street, has seen mixed reviews among property owners in the district since he unveiled plan details last month.

Darryl Leech, the general manager of Augusta’s 22-year-old riverfront hotel and conference center – and starting last year, the new Augusta Convention Center and Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center – said Marriott works hard to ensure guests feel safe, and the 84,000 room nights they book each year indicate they do.

Plus, the hotel and convention complex, the “economic engine” for downtown, contributes significantly to the city’s general fund, which pays most law enforcement salaries, and other tax coffers already, Leech said. The property owners paid about $2.1 million in property, sales, payroll and hotel-motel taxes in 2011, and $2.3 million in 2012, he said.

Also in Richmond County, the school system was reaccredited, but placed on “warning status” by the accrediting agency.

The Richmond County School System had its five-year accreditation officially renewed in June but was given a “warned status” from its accrediting body one month later for scoring low on some standards, according to documents obtained Wednesday by The Augusta Chronicle.

“That is a result of the higher expectations of the new standards,” Oliver said.

The district has two years to address the concerns, but can submit evidence of improvement to have the status changed earlier. Superintendent Frank Roberson said that process has already begun.

The four improvements required of the district are to better communicate its mission and vision, develop better long-term interaction with students, better evaluate existing programs and evaluate student data in a more consistent way.

The City of Brookhaven Police Department is active, and boy, can you tell the difference. While many argued during the incorporation effort that the City could not afford a greater police presence, or that DeKalb County’s allocation of officers was sufficient, I defy anyone to drive more than five minutes within the city limits and not see at least one, likely more, of the new patrol cars.

Someone asked me on Facebook the other day if Brookhaven is experiencing a crime problem. So I pulled some crime maps and posted them in response. Here’s what the last six months looks like.

Brookhaven Crime MapThe first map above shows about a third or a quarter of the city, with that densely-criminal diagonal line representing Buford Highway between Corporate Blvd and Dresden Drive. Basically that line and everything to the left and above it are City of Brookhaven. And that’s just the last six months worth of crime reports. Here’s a closer view of one block of Buford Highway in Brookhaven.

Brookhaven Buford Hwy Crime MapPretty chilling, right? So for me, as a resident of Brookhaven, the high visibility of the new police department is welcome for now. On Monday, there were four Brookhaven Police cars on the north side of Buford Hwy in this picture, indicating that the City is taking enforcement seriously along this corridor. My personal thanks to our officers, civilian employees and elected officials.

The City of Perry, Ga is revising its law on intoxication to more-carefully define the offense of being drunk behind the wheel of a car without actually driving.

Macon City Council voted to allow tailgating with open containers of alcohol in part of the city during Mercer football games.

Houston County has a new agreement to combat metal theft, which continues to be a vexing problem across Georgia.

Attorney General Sam Olens supports legislative prayer and joined 23 other AGs in asking the Supreme Court to allow the practice to continue. It is fitting that every session of the Georgia General Assembly open with prayer, as the citizens of the state are often driven to pray for relief from the General Assembly.

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