Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 20, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 20, 2015

On January 20, 1788, the First African Baptist Church was established in Savannah, Georgia, one of the first black churches in the United States.

John Marshall was nominated as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States by President John Adams on January 20, 1801.

On January 20, 1920, DeForest Kelley was born in Atlanta and he grew up in Conyers. Kelley sang in the choir of his father’s church and appeared on WSB radio; he graduated from Decatur Boys High School and served in the United States Navy. Kelley became famous as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in the original Star Trek series.

On January 20, 1928, Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Warm Springs, Georgia for the tenth time, staying through February 11th. During the visit, he spoke to the Chamber of Commerce of Americus and Sumter County, telling them

“In Georgia the movement towards the cities is growing by leaps and bounds and this means the abandonment of the farms or those farms that are not suited to the uses of agriculture. It means that we will have vacant lands but these can and should be used in growing timber.”

Rooesevelt was sworn-in to a fourth term as President on Jauary 20, 1945 and died in Warm Springs on April 12, 1945.

On January 20, 1939, Paul D. Coverdell was born in Des Moines, Iowa. Coverdell was one of the key figures in the development of the Georgia Republican Party.

On January 20, 1977, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as the 39th President of the United States.

On January 20, 1981, Ronald Wilson Reagan was inaugurated 40th President of the United States.

General Assembly Schedule

Tue Jan 20 10:00am – 4:30pm
Joint Budget Committee Hearings – Georgia State Capitol, Room 341
Wed Jan 21 8:00am – 9:30am
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Higher Eduation Subcommittee – 341 Capitol
8:00am – 10:30am
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations General Government Subcommittee – 506 Coverdell LOB
8:00am – 10:40am
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Public Safety Subcommittee – 606 Coverdell Legislative Office Building
9:30am – 11:30am
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Education Subcommittee – 341 Capitol
10:30am – 12:30pm
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Economic Development Subcommittee – 506 Coverdell Legislative Office Building
1:00pm – 2:30pm
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Human Resources Subcommittee – 341 Capitol
2:30pm – 4:00pm
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Health Subcommittee – 341 Capitol
Thu Jan 22 8:00am – 9:00am
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Health Subcommittee – 341 State Capitol
8:00am – 9:30am
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Public Safety Subcommittee – 606 Coverdell LOB
8:00am – 9:30am
Joint AFY15- Appropriations General Government Subcommittee – 506 Coverdell LOB
9:00am – 11:00am
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Human Resources Subcommittee – 341 Capitol
9:30am – 11:00am
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Economic Development Subcommittee – 506 CLOB
12:30pm – 1:00pm
Governor Deal Addresses Joint Appropriations Committees – 341 Capitol
12:30pm – 2:30pm
Joint Budget Committee Hearings – Georgia State Capitol Room 341
1:00pm – 3:30pm
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Human Resources Subcommittee – 341 Capitol

Political News

Legislation by State Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) would strengthen the laws against elder abuse:

“We are on the leading edge’’ in fighting elder abuse, said Willard, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

GBI Director Vernon Keenan said the legislation would add more protection against financial exploitation and allow elder abuse cases to come to trial more quickly.

It would also add a RICO provision so that prosecutors can pursue organizations or individuals who target seniors and the disabled, said Chuck Spahos, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia.

Facility operators can steal Social Security benefits, food stamps and other benefits, partly through identity theft.

“They are making a lot of money,’’ said state Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

The target population is also growing. Roughly 12 percent of Georgians are 65 or older, said Kathy Floyd, executive director of the Georgia Council on Aging.

A curriculum change to include new options for learning math in a traditional structure are open for comments to the Georgia Department of Education.

Macon-Bibb County took 67 days to respond to an open records request instead of the required three days but will not be fined for violating the Open Records Act.

Hall County Commissioners will consider this week putting a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on the ballot this year.

If approved, the vote on SPLOST VII will be held March 17.

The City of Villa Rica is refinancing its bonds to save $6.3 million dollars.

An audit in Savannah local government turned up some bad practices and led to the resignation of the former Director of Auditing.

The city of Savannah’s auditing department is conducting a follow-up review of the Savannah Civic Center after an internal investigation last fall uncovered improper cash-collection practices and the solicitation of donations from vendors, according to city officials and documents obtained by the Savannah Morning News.

City Manager Stephanie Cutter assigned auditors in late October to investigate employee allegations regarding then-director Lamont Holman, according to a report by Savannah’s director of auditing, Megan Duffy.

Holman, who was hired in February 2013 with a starting salary of $85,000, submitted his resignation after the investigation ended on Nov. 3.

In June 2014, Holman began requiring employees to pay $250 in cash, supposedly for security, to rent a room for an event, when they were previously allowed to reserve a room without paying a fee. Several employees ended up holding events under the new policy, but no receipts were found for the events or records of deposit for the funds.

I had never heard of “Right to Try” legislation until someone brought it to my attention this weekend. State Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek) has introduced House Bill 34, the “Georgia Right to Try Act.” After some quick research, the idea is that patients at the end of their lives, who have exhausted all available treatments, should have access to investigational drugs not yet approved by the FDA.

Ted Harada of McDonough wrote an Op-Ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on this issue last year.

The Goldwater Institute has crafted “Right to Try” legislation that four states are in the midst of passing and eight others are considering. “Right to Try” allows a patient access to investigational medications that have passed basic safety tests without interference by the government when certain conditions are met:

1.) Patient has been diagnosed with a terminal disease;

2.) Patient has considered all available treatment options;

3.) Patient’s doctor has recommended the investigational drug, device or biological product represents the patient’s best chance at survival;

4.) Patients or their guardians have provided informed consent;

5.) The sponsoring company chooses to make the investigational drug available to patients outside the clinical trial.

According to the Goldwater Institute, “More than 500,000 Americans died last year of cancer alone, and thousands more of other terminal illness. Promising treatments exist that could save their lives, but it takes a decade and a billion dollars for a drug to reach full FDA approval. Only 3 percent of the sickest Americans qualify for clinical trials, and the FDA protocol for approving drugs has not changed in 50 years.”

If you believe as I do, that patients in Georgia deserve the right to try, then please reach out to state legislators and tell them to introduce and pass “Right to Try” legislation next session. Trying will not be enough. That right should be reserved for people dying without hope.

Opinions on Transportation Funding

The Augusta Chronicle had some harsh words for any legislators considering additional taxes to pay for transportation improvements.

The cavalier manner in which some Georgia lawmakers talk about raising transportation taxes is enough to make you think they’re spending more time driving the Washington Beltway than Atlanta’s Interstate 285. Instead of taking the conservative route of trimming fat from less-vital areas of state bureaucracy, Peach State legislators are proposing to dig deeper into your pockets like their freewheeling counterparts in the nation’s capital.

Excuse us for being less sanguine than the House speaker when it comes to confiscating more of the people’s money. We’re just not convinced Georgia leaders have wisely spent what’s already been entrusted to them.

The nation’s eighth-most-populous state doesn’t have a revenue problem – it has a spending problem. Georgia ranks a respectable 23rd in the nation in transportation taxes but a horrid 49th in transportation spending. “About 48 percent of gas taxes in Georgia are spent on non-transportation purposes,” Reason Foundation transportation policy analyst Baruch Feigenbaum points out.

That’s mostly because of the state’s disappearing “fourth penny,” and the county portion of sales taxes – about $500 million – that often go toward dubious projects such as roadside beautification initiatives instead of heavy infrastructure.

Georgia definitely has pressing transportation needs, but it’s obvious the state’s taxpayers aren’t interested in writing the state government a blank check to cover the expenses.

Until lawmakers can ensure transportation funds are actually spent on transportation, they shouldn’t be asking for more.

State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Cobb) has introduced a bill that would raise gas taxes over six years and offset the increases with cuts to the state income tax.

State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) introduced House Bill 60 last week, which would help fund transportation by raising the per-gallon excise tax on gas over a six-year period. To make the proposal “revenue neutral,” Setzler said the increase in the gas tax would be offset by lowering the state’s income tax rate.

“It’s part of our broader effort in the Legislature to adequately fund transportation statewide,” Setzler said. “It recognizes that the big efforts, like funding transportation statewide, can be done by a steady walk in the same direction.”
“The billion and a half dollars required to meet our long-term transportation needs can be done by gradually stepping down the state income tax while we simultaneously step up the excise tax on motor fuels,” Setzler said.

Kelly McCutchen of the conservative Georgia Public Policy Foundation suggests looking at a complete overhaul of transportation funding.

Given that it is market-oriented, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation rarely promotes more government spending. But transportation funding is due for an adjustment. The Georgia Department of Transportation consistently gets projects done on time and on budget, but it can’t complete projects that aren’t funded.

Georgia’s motor fuel excise tax hasn’t changed in 44 years, while fuel efficiency and inflation have steadily eroded the tax base and its purchasing power. The sales tax on motor fuel moves in lockstep with volatile gas prices, making long-term planning difficult. Meanwhile, billions of dollars of motor fuel taxes have been diverted to other capital projects.

Below are four recommendations that would form the basis of a strong initial plan of action.

• Convert the current sales tax on motor fuel to an excise tax: Georgia has the 23rd highest gas tax in the nation, but less than 60 percent of these funds are dedicated to transportation.

• Establish an annual road usage charge/fee for alternative-fuel vehicles….

• Develop new toll lanes/facilities and create and expand managed-lane networks.

• Implement a one-cent statewide sales tax. We would modify this recommendation to read: “Provide flexibility for existing sales taxes.” Added flexibility would enable smaller, more homogeneous tax regions and the option of a lower tax rate for local governments. The idea is that voters are more likely to approve a smaller, more targeted project list.

These recommendations add up to $2 billion a year in potential new funding for roads, bridges and transit, tripling the state’s annual investment in transportation.

Kyle Wingfield also hones in on fuel taxes that are collected but not spent on transportation infrastructure.

[M]otorists in Georgia pay as much as $700 million per year in fuel taxes that aren’t actually spent on transportation. That’s about half of the annual shortfall state transportation officials say we face for maintenance and limited additions to road capacity (new lanes and rebuilt interchanges, but no new roads).

That’s the starting point. Without dedicating that level of existing funding to transportation, I see no way for legislators to ask taxpayers for more.

Legislators shouldn’t try to make up the ground all at once, but an increase in transportation taxes accompanied by reductions elsewhere seems like a route worth mapping out.

The Albany Herald Editorial Board notes that low gas prices today may represent an opportunity to raise taxes with less rancor.

One thing lawmakers know is that the current climate with the low gas prices is window of opportunity that can close at any time. Events such as a change of heart by the Saudis, for instance, or a hurricane bearing on the Gulf Coast this summer could cause a significant change in those prices, which experts are predicting to stay low for a while.

If Georgia is going to control its own destiny on transportation, this is the time to do it. The state has been living on borrowed time with roads and bridges, and this is a fundamental safety issue that directly affects every Georgian. Whether this can be addressed in full or in part will depend on the resolve of the lawmakers and the reaction of the public that elects them, but we agree with Gov. Deal on one point in particular — doing nothing is the worst option.

David Pendered, writing for the Saporta Report notes that fuel efficiency has come with a price for transportation infrastructure funding.

An uptick in the sale of new vehicles that’s been linked to lower gas prices spells more trouble for state road funding.

If the trend continues, an ever-increasing number of new, fuel efficient vehicles will be on the road sooner rather than later. While that’s good news for the auto industry, it’s bad news for the primary source of state revenues Georgia uses to build and maintain roads – a fuel tax collected on every gallon sold.

These figures and others will factor into this year’s debate in the Legislature over state transportation funding. Both Gov. Nathan Deal and a joint House-Senate study committee call for Georgia to raise more money for roads and transit.

Political Events


Buckhead YR: Meeting – Counter Programming to the State of the Union – with Sen. Josh McKoon

January 20 @ 7:00 PM10:00 PM

Whitehall Tavern, 2391 Peachtree Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30305+ Google Map

Join the Buckhead Young Republicans for our monthly meeting with State Senator J…

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Rep. Rob Woodall: Telephone Town Hall – State of the Union Address

January 20 @ 7:30 PM8:00 PM
Telephone Town Hall

U.S. Representative Rob Woodall (GA-07) will be hosting his first telephone town…

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The State of the Union Address

January 20 @ 9:00 PM10:00 PM
The U.S. House of Representatives
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FREE

GA Right To Life: 2015 Georgia March For Life

January 22 @ 11:00 AM2:00 PM

Liberty Plaza – State Capitol, 18 Capitol Square, Atlanta, GA 30339 United States

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Mark your calendars for Thursday, January 22, 2015 and join us at Liberty Plaza …

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Bibb County GOP: Meeting with Monya Rutland

January 22 @ 7:00 PM8:00 PM

Bibb County GOP HQ, 2720 Riverside Drive, Macon, 31204

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Bibb GOP monthly meeting with guest speaker Monya Rutland from Macon Charter Aca…

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$8

Columbia County GOP: Monthly Breakfast Meeting

January 24 @ 9:00 AM10:30 AM

The Garlic Clove Italian Eatery, 4534 Washington Rd, Evans, GA 30809

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Guest Speaker is Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross

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GA General Assembly: Legislative Day 5

January 26 @ 10:00 AM11:00 AM
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GA General Assembly: Legislative Day 6

January 27 @ 10:00 AM11:00 AM
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GA General Assembly: Legislative Day 7

January 28 @ 10:00 AM11:00 AM
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Atlanta YR: Meeting with Sen. Josh McKoon & Rep. Sam Teasley

January 28 @ 7:00 PM9:00 PM

Five Seasons Brewing – Westside, 1000 Marietta Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30318 United States

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AYR starts off 2015 by inviting two YR legislators: Sen. Josh McKoon and …

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GA General Assembly: Legislative Day 8

January 29 @ 10:00 AM11:00 AM
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$50

From Coweta County GOP: The Benghzi Truth Stop in Newnan

January 29 @ 5:30 PM7:00 PM

Foundry Grillworks, 80 Newnan Station Drive, Newnan , GA 30265 United States

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Kris “Tanto” Paronto (author of 13 Hours in Benghazi) will be flying…

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Governor Mike Huckabee: Book Tour

January 30 @ 4:00 PM5:30 PM

FoxTale Book Shoppe, 105 E Main St, Woodstock, GA 30188 United States

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  We’re thrilled to welcome Governor Huckabee to FoxTale Book Shoppe!…

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Hall County GOP: Conservative Forum with Dick Mecum – State of the County Address

January 31 @ 10:00 AM11:00 AM

Hall GOP Headquarters Office, 715 Queen City Parkway, Gainesville, GA 30501 United States

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Conservative Forum with Dick Mecum State of the County Address Dick Mecum is the…

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February 2015


Georgia Faith & Freedom Coalition: Legislative Luncheon

February 5 @ 11:45 AM2:00 PM

Empire Room of the Sloppy Floyd Building, 200 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30334

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Join Faith & Freedom Coalition of Georgia for the 2nd Annual Legislative Lun…

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GA GOP: Precinct Mass Meetings

February 7 @ 8:00 AM10:00 AM

Precinct Mass Meetings – February 7, 2015 (Counties over 80,000) Locations …

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Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: Lobby Day

February 12

The State Capitol, 18 Capitol Square, Atlanta, GA 30339 

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  Join us for this annual event taking place at the Historic Freight Depot …

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