Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 12, 2014

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 12, 2014

Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the Constitution on December 12, 1787.

Guglielmo Marconi completed the first transatlantic radio transmission from Cornwall, England to Newfoundland on December 12, 1901.

Jimmy Carter announced he would run for President of the United States on December 12, 1974.

Dickey Betts, guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, was born on December 12, 1943.

The United States Supreme Court released its decision in Bush v. Gore on December 12, 2000, stopping manual recounts of contested ballots in Florida.

A new historical marker commemorating the end of Sherman’s March to the Sea was unveiled yesterday at Madison Square in Savannah.

The marker was the second erected by the Georgia Historical Society to observe the 150th anniversary of Sherman’s march through Georgia.

The first one was unveiled in Atlanta on Nov. 12 in a small ceremony on the grounds of the Carter Presidential Library, a quiet, tree-studded sanctuary that was the site of Sherman’s departure from Atlanta along a nearby road.

Georgia Politics

Congratulations to Derrick Dickey, who has been named Chief of Staff (Leo McGarry) to Senator-elect David Perdue and will split his time between Atlanta and Washington, DC. Megan Whittemore, who joined the Perdue campaign in August, will serve as the Senator’s Communications Director (Toby Ziegler).

Congressman Phil Gingrey was dinged by the House Ethics Committee.

The Ethics panel, the only evenly divided committee in the House, ruled that Gingrey – who is retiring at the end of this Congress – had violated conflict of interest rules in his dealings with a bank where he owned stock. The panel issued a letter of reproval to Gingrey, saying he had “violated the Code of Ethics for Government Service (Code of Ethics), which prohibit dispensing special favors to anyone ‘whether for renumeration or not,’ and the acceptance of benefits that could be seen as influencing a Member’s official duties. Representative Gingrey’s actions also did not reflect creditably on the House or comport with the spirit of House Rules regarding conflicts of interest.”

The Ethics Committee and Office of Congressional Ethics, the independent watchdog, both looked into allegations – first reported in 2011 – related to stock warrants that Gingrey received from two Georgia banks in return for serving on their board of directors.

It was also reported that Gingrey had advocated for legislation that would benefit the banks during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.

The Ethics Committee “determined that Representative Gingrey received $250,000 in stock warrants in the Bank of Ellijay, and subsequently took official actions to assist the bank,” the panel’s report states. “The Committee found no evidence that Representative Gingrey’s actions resulted in any financial benefit to him, or were taken with that intent.”

The Secretarys of State in Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi have said they will join Georgia in holding Presidential Preference primaries on March 1, 2016.

Kemp writes that the bloc voting would mean “voters of the Southeast will have a major impact in the selection of presidential nominees of both parties.” That means more big-name candidates could visit the South to curry favor with voters.

Tennessee, Texas and Florida already plan to open their polls on March 1, 2016, as have a few key non-SEC states.

The AJC Political Insider blog has the yeas and nays on the CRomnibus federal spending bill.

In the Georgia delegation, 10 of 14 members voted in favor of the bill — despite clamoring from the left and the right to take it down.

Georgia’s “no” votes were Reps. Paul Broun, R-Athens; Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia; John Lewis, D-Atlanta; and Austin Scott, R-Tifton. The overall tally was 219-206, with 67 Republicans voting against it and 57 Democrats voting for it.

The Hall County Delegation to the Georgia legislature spoke of road funding and other priorities to the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

Fixing Georgia’s roads and bridges will be a top priority for the General Assembly when it reconvenes Jan. 12, Hall County delegation members said Thursday morning.

“We are losing jobs to other states because of gridlock,” said Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Eggs & Issues Breakfast at the Gainesville Civic Center.

Among the difficult challenges ahead, “No. 1 is, no doubt, transportation issues,” Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said.

But how to fund transportation needs is the hard part, lawmakers said.

Miller said officials could look at raising the gas tax, but motorists using alternative fuels or energy sources are “paying no fees” and should share in the burden.

“We need to spread the expense over all the people traveling; (that would) be far better for the state,” he said.

Rep. Timothy Barr, R-Lawrenceville, said legislators could work to keep the budget down and apply the growth in revenues — some $360 million over last year so far — to transportation.

“This (idea) might be unpopular at this table or even in this room,” he said.

A town hall meeting in Columbus opened discussions of police shootings in the area.

The panel featured Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren, Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman, NAACP President Nate Sanderson, Attorney Katonga Wright, Fraternal Order of Police President Randy Robertson and Maj. Freddie Blackmon, personnel director for the Columbus Police Department. Janell J. Lewis, president of the CMABJ, served as the moderator.

Tomlinson and Boren said the Columbus Police Department has already been accumulating body cameras. They said 20 have been purchased in the last four to five months. They went to officers on motorcycles first since those in patrol cars already have dashcams. Boren said he has approached the council about purchasing more body cameras at about $800 a piece.

Tomlinson said officers with the Columbus Police Department have to go through rigorous training before they’re allowed to police the community, and that’s the best way to keep citizens safe from police brutality.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the City of Columbus moved for dismissal of a lawsuit by Sheriff John Darr over funding.

Melanie Slaton and Carter Schondelmayer, attorneys representing the city, members of Columbus Council, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and several top administrators, filed the motion Wednesday, asking Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller to toss out Darr’s suit, which claims his budget provided by the city is insufficient to carry out his constitutionally mandated duties. The suit also asks the court to order the city to pay Darr’s legal fees from the city’s General Fund instead of from the sheriff’s budget.

As in the similar suits filed by Marshal Greg Countryman, Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Bishop and Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce, Tomlinson and several administrators are named as defendants.

The city’s motion to dismiss claims that Darr is not entitled to the relief he seeks because he has a legislative remedy available to him – to go back before Council to seek more funds – that he has not sought. The city also claims that the court has no judicial authority to usurp Council’s legislative authority in formulating the city’s budget.

Former Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Fanning-Lasseter isn’t quite home for the holidays, but release from federal prison to a halfway house represents an upgrade in her status.

In Sept. 2012, a federal judge sentenced Lasseter, a former mayor of Duluth and one-term member of the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners, to 33 months in prison. She began serving her sentence on Dec. 12 of the same year and had been housed at Marianna Federal Correctional Institute, a minimum-security facility on the Florida panhandle, since.

That changed Friday, when it’s believed Lasseter was relocated to a “residential reentry center,” or halfway house, closer to home.

A prison spokesperson confirmed that Lasseter was no longer housed at the facility in Marianna but did not provide any further information. A friend of Lasseter’s, however, told the Daily Post that the former commissioner was scheduled to report to a halfway house near Atlanta on Friday.

Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott will be taking cookies to fire houses and police stations in his district on Christmas Day. I award two points.

Georgia Ports Authority collected gifts for 72 abused and neglected children in the government’s care. +72 points.

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is a nonprofit group that advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in juvenile court deprivation proceedings.

“CASA performs a vital service, looking after the interests of these children who are less fortunate,” said GPA Executive Director Curtis J. Foltz. “Participating in this gift drive allows us, in a small way, to take part in their important mission.”

Each GPA gift-giver helped sponsor a child by filling wish lists with holiday goodies. Gift suggestions included clothes, toys, dolls, bikes and games.

“CASA and the children we represent are lucky to have the Georgia Ports as a partner in believing that childhood should be something to be rejoiced in, not something to recover from,” said Anne Robinson, executive director of CASA.

A Georgia Department of Agriculture reports says that 30 percent of counties lack municipal animal control facilities.

While liberal Better Georgia was able to recover some lawyer fees for its defense against an ethics complaint, former Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen fell short in seeking reimbursement.

The commission voted 3-1 Wednesday to deny her motion to order reimbursement of the fees from her former deputy, Dwight Johnson, who filed the dismissed complaint.

Johnson filed the complaint in February with the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission alleging that Allen failed to list on her personal-financial disclosure a business relationship. The Ethics in Government Act requires each candidate and public official to disclose all businesses, nonprofit positions and personal investments.

Johnson’s complaint didn’t specify what relationship Allen omitted or the document it was left off of. As a result, the Campaign Finance staff dismissed the complaint in July.

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