Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 12, 2015

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Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 12, 2015

On March 12, 1739, James Oglethorpe, recognized as the Founder of Georgia, wrote the Georgia Trustees, urging them to continue the ban on slavery in the new colony.

Juliette Gordon Low held the first meeting of the Girl Guides, which would later be renamed the Girl Scouts, in her home in Savannah, Georgia on March 12, 1912.

Gianni Agnelli was born on March 12, 1921 in Turin, Italy, and would come to be the wealthiest man in Italy, head and principal shareholder of Fiat, and recognized as an Italian Senator for Life in 1991. Among those who follow fashion, Agnelli has long been recognized as an archetype of the Italian approach to menswear.

His style was about more than clothes—it was an attitude, a philosophical response to absurdity. Watching him could tell you how to live, how to behave. In Italy, they call it sprezzatura, making the difficult look easy. Americans are gonzo, a spirit personified by Hunter S. Thompson, who defined it as a man who learns to fly by falling out of a plane. Agnelli might look gonzo—especially on nights when he showed up in boots and an ill-fitting tie—but was, in fact, sprezzatura; he knew how to fly all along. “When he was not perfectly dressed, it was contrived,” says Taki Theodoracopulos, the writer, columnist, socialite and son of a Greek shipping tycoon. Taki is one of the few surviving members of Agnelli’s social circle. “The tie askew, the unbuttoned shirt—nothing was an accident. Or, to put it another way, it was meant to be an accident, which made it even more stylish.”

Clarence Thomas, originally from Pin Point, Georgia, was sworn in to the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on March 12, 1990.

R.E.M. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 12, 2007.

Happy birthday to former Atlanta Braves slugger Dale Murphy.

Under the Gold Dome Today

Here’s an excellent brief interview of Speaker David Ralston by GPB’s Bill Nigut on the Transportation Finance Act and forthcoming political challenges.

10:00am – 11:00am House MARTOC – 406 clob
10:00am – 11:00am House Nat’l Resources & Env’t – 506 CLOB
10:00am – 11:00am Senate Transportation Continuation – 125 CAP
12:00pm – 1:00pm Senate Regulated Industries – 310 CLOB
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Science & Technology – 310 clob
1:00pm – 2:00pm House Industry & Labor – 406 CLOB
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Interstate Coop – Canceled – 123 cap
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Finance – Canceled – mezz 1
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Nat’l Resources & Env’t – 450 cap

Matt Kempner at the AJC has a higher-level view of the legislature this year, making the case that much of this Session’s legislative action involves friction between free-market conservatism and the reality of government in Georgia.

From beer to solar panels and, now, $70,000 electric cars, state legislators are weighing whether to let Georgians buy what they want, the way they want, even if it comes at the expense of powerful businesses.

Three bills in particular this year are testing the Republican-dominated legislature’s resolve for a freer market versus protectionism. Backers say they want Georgians to be able to get more from young, innovative businesses.

Legislators usually are wary of irritating their most influential business constituents, such as car dealers that employ nearly 30,000 Georgians.

“Those are some of the heaviest hitters in your community,” Hooks said. “It is difficult for any member of the legislature to go against the tried and true business leaders.”

Legislation that challenges such entrenched interests “is not going to happen overnight,” Hooks said. “Ideas change slowly in the General Assembly.”

“Since consumers are empowered in this way, when they come across regulations and laws and so on that restrict their ability to buy … then they are going to be lobbying their representatives,” said Michael Crew, a Rutgers University professor of regulatory economics. “The people with the entrenched industries are going to be lobbying also, and they generally have more power.”

Said Crew: “The guy with the least weight is the individual consumer.”

This is an excellent article that is worth reading in its entirety.

This dynamic and the libertarian leanings of many Georgia voters is demonstrated by the GaPundit Online Survey results on some of the issues that article discussed.

BeerJobsSurveyResults

EV_SurveyResults

UberLyftSurveyResults

The Gainesville Times (via the Associated Press) has a good rundown of what passed the State Senate yesterday in the rush leading up to Crossover Day tomorrow.

Car-hailing services

Uber and Lyft would be allowed to continue operating in Georgia under a complex bill that passed the state House by a huge margin.

Uber and other companies that use apps to connect drivers and riders have become popular nationwide, but have run into skeptical lawmakers such as Rep. Alan Powell, chairman of the House Public Safety committee.

Just two weeks ago, Uber and its allies accused the Hartwell Republican of trying to put them out of business.

They changed that tune when Powell’s HB 225 passed 160-10 late in the day. Powell said his bill will deregulate limos, taxis and car services such as Uber and Lyft. Both Uber and Lyft applauded the move.

Judges’ salaries

Supreme and Appeals Court judges would receive a $12,000 raise under a bill headed to the state Senate.

The House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 142 to 21.

The bill also gives salary increases to circuit-court judges, district attorneys and public defenders.

The state would add up to $30,000 annually for those officials. Any salary supplement determined by counties or other local agencies would be subtracted — so a judge receiving a $30,000 supplement would receive no state increase but a judge receiving a $20,000 supplement would receive $10,000 more from the state.

Sponsoring Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, said the increase is meant to bring salaries in line regardless of local supplements. He said the last raise for Supreme and Appeals Court judges was in 1999.

From the Times-Herald in Newnan, which has become must-read for political junkies this year due to extensive reporting, we have news about the Senate Resolution urging changes in the Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum.

A resolution demanding that the College Board revise its A.P. U.S. History course passed the Georgia State Senate 38-17 Wednesday. The resolution now goes to the Georgia House.

Senate Resolution 80 states that the recently revised Advanced Placement U.S. History course framework “reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects” and “minimizes discussion of America’s Founding Fathers, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, the religious influences on our nation’s history, and many other critical topics that have long been part of the APUSH course.”

Cowetan Dan Williams, a history professor at the University of West Georgia, said earlier this month that the new AP framework is “certainly less overtly partisan, less ideological than the most popular U.S. history textbooks for college students.”

The new test itself is “not a test I think could easily be attacked on ideological grounds,” said Williams, who considers himself “moderately conservative” politically.

The Gainesville Times writes that Senator Butch Miller supported the move also,

“I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “It reflects a lot of what we did in Hall County two years ago. We had a study committee of stakeholders in education and others who recommended history courses include respect for the flag and the Pledge of Allegiance.

“It was a bipartisan committee that talked about history courses and what would be appropriate.”

Miller pointed out a resolution is not a statute but urges action.

“It strongly urges civics education that includes things like respect for the flag and the Founding Fathers,” he said.

The University of Georgia’s Red and Black spoke to students and faculty about the AP U.S. History curriculum,

Montgomery Wolf, a lecturer in the UGA history department, is well-versed in APUSH. Wolf had a small part in helping to create the curriculum of the program and has graded AP exams for the last 5 years.

“Learning history is very, very important for high school and college students,” Wolf said. “Good history classes don’t teach history as facts, but rather teach history as interpretation.”

Wolf encourages her students to look at the primary documents and come to their own conclusions. However, it can be tough to maintain an objective approach when teaching history.

“Most historians accept the fact that when one studies, interprets and writes history, it is impossible to remain entirely objective,” Wolf said.

Nevertheless, the more controversial aspects of American history shouldn’t be dismissed in favor of the more positive parts.

“History classes must give at least as much attention to our national failures as to our victories,” Wolf said. “How can we learn from our mistakes if we do not know and understand our mistakes?”

Other People’s Money

In Peach County, opposition has surfaced to a March 17th E-SPLOST (Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax).

Peach County’s school board wants to use the five-year SPLOST plan to raise $32 million for a new high school. The proposed site is off of Highway 49 and Moseley Road in Fort Valley.

The Reverend K. Daniel Dawsey says after investing money into the current school for new air conditioners, it makes no sense to build a new building.

Charlie Adams, a resident of Fort Valley for over 50 years, says it will take much longer than five years to pay off the new building and says the location poses a possible safety hazard.

Peach’s current SPLOST ends in December, and this tax would extend it for another five years meaning the county’s sales tax would stay the same.

Early voting for the SPLOST election is underway until Friday. You can vote in advance at either the Peach County Courthouse or the Byron Municipal Complex.

YeSun Wiltse wrote to The Columbia County News-Times to urge voters to reject the March 17th Columbia County E-SPLOST because of the timing of the election.

We had a general election on Nov. 4, 2014. If the Columbia County Board of Education (BOE) wanted to put ESPLOST on the ballot, it should have done so in November. Since it was not, the BOE should wait until the next election cycle rather than schedule a special election that will cost Columbia County taxpayers $40,000. This is an unnecessary expense. In addition, why is this election needed when this ESPLOST cycle will not begin until 2017?

I have a new friend who moved here from California. She was shocked to find out that we pay 8 percent sales tax. Think about that. All Georgia counties pay a sales tax rate between 6-8 percent. Columbia County is one of the counties with one of the highest sales taxes in Georgia. We, Columbia County taxpayers, imposed three out of eight cent sales tax on ourselves by voting for SPLOST, ESPLOST and TSPLOST.

When you vote to increase your own taxes, it allows politicians to claim that they never raised taxes. They are elected as our representatives to make tough decisions, so let them. If there is a need for increased taxes, let them vote for it and be accountable for their actions during the next election cycle.

Public safety is part of the plans for proceeds of a Whitfield County SPLOST election on March 17, 2015.

If the SPLOST is approved, Whitfield County would join the Tennessee Valley Regional Communications System (TVRCS), which includes 10 counties in Tennessee and Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties in Georgia. The referendum is on the March 17 ballot.

The 1 percent sales tax would last four years, beginning July 1 and ending June 30, 2019. It would collect $63.6 million during that period, according to the latest estimates.

Thirty percent would go towards public safety, such as the radio system, new trucks for the Whitfield County and Dalton fire departments, a new fire station in the northwest part of the county and new vehicles for the Varnell and Cohutta police departments and the sheriff’s office. Another 41 percent would go to roads and infrastructure, and the rest would to “quality of life” projects, such as improvements at parks.

Voters in Valdosta-Lowndes County will go to the polls on March 17th to decide on E-SPLOST V, which would raise up to $135 million over five years.

The ESPLOST V funds are divided between Valdosta City and Lowndes County school systems. This year’s tax is expected to receive a maximum total of about $58 million. The extension is set at a sum of $135 million or 5 years, which ever comes first.

“Much of what we are going to be doing with our ESPLOST funds will be to construct a new Valdosta High School. Why a new high school? The one that we currently have was occupied in 1972, though it has had some cosmetic changes on the inside, the infrastructure is still that of 1972. We have major infrastructure problems out there including a deteriorated sewer infrastructure, water infrastructure, and air chiller,” Martin Roesch, Valdosta City Superintendent said. “It is estimated that it would cost about $17 million dollars to finish or to modify the existing facility, but then where would we have a school while these modifications are being done? The high school is on a slab and the sewer infrastructure is underneath that, basically you would have to go in and jack hammer the entire slab out to make those modifications.”

Hall County voters will decide on SPLOST VII on March 17th.

Turnout has been poor in recent SPLOST votes.

In 2009, for example, just 9.3 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the SPLOST VI election. Only 7,565 votes were cast among 81,307 total voters.

An E-SPLOST to fund education was approved in 2011, but turnout was just 8.3 percent, or 6,757 of 81,360 registered voters.

Close to two-thirds of voters approved SPLOST VI, but SPLOST VII is perhaps the most controversial of all local sales tax measures, and may end up being decided by a much smaller margin.

The latest revenue projection for SPLOST VII is $158 million over five years. The 1 percent sales tax would take effect July 1 and revenues are distributed based on 2010 Census figures.

Supporters of the Hall County SPLOST appear to have undertaken a Letters to the Editor campaign touting the benefits of the SPLOST. See also here, here, here, and here.

SEC Primary

Next Thursday, former Governor Jeb Bush will visit Atlanta again for a $1000 per plate breakfast at the Capital City Club downtown.

Our neighbors in Tennessee may be getting more benefit from the SEC Primary that Georgia is, with many of the major contenders visiting.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee spoke at the National Religious Broadcasters meeting in Nashville [in mid-February], while former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal are scheduled to appear [in March].

And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been signed up as the headliner for the Tennessee Republican Party’s annual fundraiser on May 30.

Jindal will keynote the Tennessee GOP’s Leadership Series in Memphis on March 20, and Santorum is scheduled to speak at the Montgomery County Republican Party’s Lincoln Reagan Day on March 28.

Gwinnett County Commissioners Chillax

Gwinnett County Commission members have added more informal sessions to their calendar, supplementing committee and Board meetings with learning sessions, discussions, tours of county facilities, and sometimes just lunch.

The commissioners already had occassional briefing sessions following their work sessions and business meetings on the first and third Tuesdays of every month. Last August, however, they added the informal discussion meetings on the first, second and third Tuesdays of the month.

These meetings feature a looser format that gives commissioners more time to just talk.

Sometimes, they take tours of various county facilities. Other times, they sit around a table, enjoy a lunch and just chit-chat about minor issues.

“We had multiple reasons for wanting to do them,” said Commissioner Jace Brooks. “One was that it gives us a few extra hours to discuss some bigger subjects. In these last six, to eight months, we’ve discussed economic development and it’s given us more time to focus in on some of these issues.

“One of the other things we wanted to do was to get out, check out and explore all of the facilities and assets that the county has,” he added. “Sometimes, when we’re in our own districts, we don’t get a chance to explore some of the other facilities that we have and so this has really helped us out a lot.”

Members of the Gwinnett County Commission also held a Town Hall Meeting that focused on transportation, according to the AJC.

About two dozen residents attended the meeting, at the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center, to complain and to praise. Commissioners weren’t often able to solve their problems, but said they appreciated the chance to hear from residents.

“We can’t tackle issues that we’re not aware of,” Commissioner Jace Brooks told the crowd.

The next town hall will be held March 26 at the Dacula Park Activity Building. It will be followed by meetings at the Pinckneyville Park Community Recreation Center on April 23 and the Hudgens Center for the Arts May 12. All meetings start at 7 p.m., with an open house that begins at 6:15 p.m.

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