Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 3, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 3, 2015

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Happy birthday today to my father and to Herschel Walker. Also turning over the year-o-meter today is Tone Loc. So this is happening:

On March 3, 1820, Congress passed the Missouri Compromise.

In February 1819, Representative James Tallmadge of New York introduced a bill that would admit Missouri into the Union as a state where slavery was prohibited. At the time, there were 11 free states and 10 slave states. Southern congressmen feared that the entrance of Missouri as a free state would upset the balance of power between North and South, as the North far outdistanced the South in population, and thus, U.S. representatives. Opponents to the bill also questioned the congressional precedent of prohibiting the expansion of slavery into a territory where slave status was favored.

Even after Alabama was granted statehood in December 1819 with no prohibition on its practice of slavery, Congress remained deadlocked on the issue of Missouri. Finally, a compromise was reached. On March 3, 1820, Congress passed a bill granting Missouri statehood as a slave state under the condition that slavery was to be forever prohibited in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase north of the 36th parallel, which runs approximately along the southern border of Missouri. In addition, Maine, formerly part of Massachusetts, was admitted as a free state, thus preserving the balance between Northern and Southern senators.

The Missouri Compromise, although criticized by many on both sides of the slavery debate, succeeded in keeping the Union together for more than 30 years.

On March 3, 1845, Congress overrode a Presidential veto for the first time.

On March 3, 1874, Governor Joseph Brown signed legislation permitting persons or companies to lease Georgia prisoners for terms from one to five years, with the Governor setting the rates.

The act required the humane treatment of convicts and limited them to a ten-hour work day, with Sunday off. Equally important, leases had to free the state from all costs associated with prisoner maintenance. Once all state convicts were leased, the law provided that all state penitentiary officers and employees be discharged.

Just think of how much progress Georgia has made with privatizing the justice system — now, instead of leasing convicts, we have private probation companies overseeing released prisoners.

One year ago today, we had both Crossover Day in the Georgia General Assembly and the opening of candidate qualifying.

Under the Gold Dome

9:00am – 10:00am House Rules Committee – 341 cap
12:00pm – 1:00pm Senate Rules Committee Upon Adjournment – 450 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm House Labor Management Subcommittee of Industry and Labor – 606 clob
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Interstate Cooperation Committee – 123 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Science & Technology Committee – 310 clob
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Health & Human Services Committee – 450 cap
1:30pm – 2:30pm House Pak Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil – 406 clob
1:30pm – 2:30pm House State Planning & Community Affairs Committee – 403 cap
2:00pm – 2:30pm House State Government Sub of Governmental Affairs – 606 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Public Safety Law Enforcement, Fire, and Emergency Mgmt Sub
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Regulated Industries Committee – 506 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Academic Support Subcommittee of Education – 415 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Defense & Veterans Affairs Committee – 515 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Urban Affairs Committee – 328 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Banking & Financial Institutions Committee – 307 clob
2:00pm – 4:00pm House Judiciary Civil Committee – 132 cap
2:30pm – 3:00pm House Local Government Sub of Governmental Affairs – 606 clob
3:00pm – 3:30pm House Science & Technology Committee – 506 clob
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Higher Education Committee – 310 clob
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Appropriations – Transportation – mezz 1
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Natural Resources & Environment Committee – 450 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm House Game, Fish, & Parks Committee – 403 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Government Oversight Committee – 123 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Veterans, Military, & Homeland Security Committee – 125 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Appropriations – Fiscal Management – 341 cap
3:00pm – 5:00pm House Ways & Means Committee – 606 clob
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Judiciary Committee – 307 clob
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Economic Development & Tourism Committee – mezz 1
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Appropriations – Agriculture – 310 clob
4:00pm – 5:00pm House Jacobs Subcommittee of Judiciary Civil – 132 cap
4:00pm – 5:00pm House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee – 406 clob
4:00pm – 5:00pm House Higher Education Committee – 403 cap
4:30pm – 6:00pm House Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil – 506 clob

Senate Rules Calendar

SB 104 – State Depository Board; delete references to building and loan associations (As Introduced) (B&FI-30th)

SB 85 – Development Authorities; revise the definition of projects as applicable; modify the tax exemption (As Introduced) (ED&T-21st)

SB 89 – “Digital Classroom Act”; require instructional materials and content to be in digital or electronic format after a certain date (As Introduced) (Substitute) (S&T-56th)

SB 100 – Motor Vehicles and Traffic; provide for applicability with current federal reg. in the safe operations of motor carriers and commercial

House Rules Calendar

Open Rule
HB 82 Oconee River Greenway Authority; certain members to appoint a designee; allow (Substitute)(NR&E-Kidd-145th)

Modified Open Rule
HB 147 Motor vehicles; initial two-year registration period for certain vehicles; provide (Substitute)(MotV-Powell-32nd)

HB 252 J. Calvin Hill, Jr., Act; enact (Substitute)(CR-Caldwell-20th)

HB 315 Technical and adult education; change name of Technical College System of Georgia to Georgia Career College System; provisions (HEd-Nimmer-178th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 183 Home Care Patient Protection Act; enact (Substitute)(H&HS-Knight-130th)

HB 190 Insurance; provide requirements for transportation network companies and their drivers; provisions (Substitute)(Ins-Golick-40th)

HB 195 Pharmacists and pharmacies; substitutions of interchangeable biological products; provide (Substitute)(H&HS-Cooper-43rd)

We are told that House Bill 244, a version of Senate Bill 8 Rachel’s Law, which already passed the senior chamber and which deals with providing services to minors who have been victims of domestic violence, will be heard in the Pak Subcommittee of House Judiciary Non-Civil today at 1:30 PM.

Committee Notes

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 129 with a “Do Pass” recommendation with no Democrats present, sending the bill to the Rules Committee. After having been tabled in its earlier committee appearance, the bill garnered support from Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert (R-Athens).

House Transportation Committee passed the newest version of HB 170, the Transportation Finance Act.

The committee voted overwhelmingly to approve House Bill 170, a key vote that came after setbacks last week. The latest changes to the bill dealt with local taxes. Gone from the bill are plans to phase out local special option sales taxes and replace them with excise taxes.

Instead, HB 170 will leave SPLOSTS and similar taxes levied by school districts alone. But any municipal option sales tax or local option sales tax used to rollback property taxes will no longer apply to motor fuel while the rate will increase from 1 percent to 1.25 percent.

Right to Try legislation, which would allow Georgia patients with terminal conditions to ask for medications not yet approved for their condition, passed the House Health and Human Services Committee yesterday.

Senate Ethics Committee voted in favor of legislation that provides a path to redemption and recognizes that problems with the State Ethics Commission’s filing system may have led to some unwarranted fines.

Senate Bill 127 gives local officials on the state ethics commission’s late-filer list a “rebuttable presumption” that they tried to file their required reports of campaign donations and personal financial disclosures but were foiled by the commission’s faulty computer system and history of mismanagement.

The Senate Ethics Committee unanimously passed the legislation based largely on a belief that some officials were victimized by computer servers that routinely failed as thousands of politicians tried to meet filing deadlines. But Chairman Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge, said he did not know how many officials the bill would affect.

“I would say between dozens and 100, but that’s a guesstimate,” he said.

The same committee also declined to take action on legislation to lower the age for serving in the Senate.

Bills to create the cities of LaVista Hill and Tucker were introduced yesterday in the State House.

Criminal Background? Check!

You may remember the ongoing saga of Crawford Lewis, the former DeKalb County Superintendent who was indicted on state RICO and theft by taking charges and then pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge and cooperated with the authorities. His alleged co-conspirators, Patricia Reid and Tony Pope were convicted of racketeering in a scheme to steer school construction business to Reid’s ex-husband, Pope.

Patricia Reid, former chief operating officer for the DeKalb County School District, was accused of steering multimillion-dollar projects toward her then-husband, Tony Pope.

Pope and Reid were married at the time when Reid served as the DeKalb County School District’s COO and redirected more than $1.4 million in contracts to Pope’s architecture firm.

“This sentence sends a loud message to those who seek to manipulate and steal from the citizens of DeKalb County. Reid and Pope both devised a scheme to take $1.4 million in tax dollars to line their pockets through improper and illegal means,” said DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James.

The convictions of Reid and Pope were overturned and may be retried. So your takeaway is that two top DeKalb County School Board officials were indicted for racketeering, one pled guilty to a lesser charge, the other was convicted but her conviction overturned. DeKalb County is still looking for a new superintendent.

The members of the DeKalb Board of Education has named a search committee that includes…wait for it… a former DeKalb County Commissioner who was convicted of extortion in office. Here’s a summary from the United States Supreme Court,

As part of an investigation of allegations of public corruption in Georgia, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent posing as a real estate developer initiated a number of conversations with petitioner [John H.] Evans, [Jr.,] an elected member of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.

In those conversations, the agent sought petitioner’s assistance in an effort to rezone a 25-acre tract of land for high-density residential use. On July 25, 1986, the agent handed petitioner cash totaling $7,000 and a check, payable to petitioner’s campaign, for $1,000. Petitioner reported the check, but not the cash, on his state campaign-financing disclosure form; he also did not report the $7,000 on his 1986 federal income tax return. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Government, as we must in light of the verdict, see Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 80, 62 S.Ct. 457, 469-470, 86 L.Ed. 680 (1942), we assume that the jury found that petitioner accepted the cash knowing that it was intended to ensure that he would vote in favor of the rezoning application and that he would try to persuade his fellow commissioners to do likewise. Thus, although petitioner did not initiate the transaction, his acceptance of the bribe constituted an implicit promise to use his official position to serve the interests of the bribe-giver.

I’m pretty sure the John Evans named to the Superintendent Search Committee is the same John Evans who was convicted of accepting a bribe. Mr. Evans is by all accounts living a fine life on the right side of the law. As a political geek’s footnote, it was Bob Barr, as United States Attorney, who oversaw the Evans trial.

But the appearance of having someone who previously was convicted of official corruption helping to choose the successor to a Superintendent who pled guilty to a misdemeanor after being charged with official corruption is questionable at best.

In recent weeks we’ve seen a DeKalb County Commissioner and her husband plead guilty to federal corruption and mail fraud charges respectively, for a scheme to fleece taxpayers out of thousands of dollars. Our elected CEO awaits retrial after a hung jury in his first corruption trial. Two weeks ago, another former DeKalb County official pled guilty to accepting a bribe for actions on the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Then there’s the mysterious ethics memo that miracled its way into existence. And this. Anyone who doesn’t expect more indictments in DeKalb County very soon might be delusional. It’s like we’re living out GoodFellas.

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