Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 28, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 28, 2015

On April 28, 1776, Colonel Lachlan McIntosh wrote from Savannah to General George Washington.

he concluded his letter with the report that because the South had limited manufacturing capability, the price of needed goods was two or three times higher than in the North, making procurement of clothing and arms for the new recruits difficult.

This last tidbit would prove prescient as lack of manufacturing proved an insuperable problem for the Confederacy. On May 16, 1777, McIntosh dueled against Button Gwinnett, scoring a fatal wound against one of Georgia’s signers of the Declaration of Independence. McIntosh was acquitted at trial but forced to leave Georgia and eventually served under Washington at Valley Forge.

In 1787, McIntosh was a Commissioner representing Georgia in a series of three boudary disputes with South Carolina, two which were resolved on April 28, 1787 with the Convention of Beaufort.

In 1874, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation designating April 26th of each year as “Confederate Memorial Day,” choosing the day of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender to Union General William T. Sherman at Durham Station, North Carolina. There is no longer a statutorily-recognized Confederate Memorial Day, but it has become custom for Governors to issue a proclamation yearly designating April 26th as Confederate Memorial Day or to make it the Monday or Friday closest to the 26th. Yesterday was Confederate Memorial Day 2015 for state employees.

On April 28, 2014, the earliest ever Primary Elections in Georgia began, as in-person early voting started across the state. From Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

WABE has an interesting story about a mostly-symbolic incorporation of the now-defunct city you’ve never heard of – Chattahoochee Plantation in Cobb County.

Not only was there once a city in this part of East Cobb (an area that’s all unincorporated today), but it was one that was once 30 or so miles long. It spanned Cobb County’s entire border with the Chattahoochee River, all the way up to where the county meets Roswell and back down to where Six Flags is today.

And for much of that length, the city was just 10 feet wide.

Now, this got us really curious. What could possibly be the purpose of incorporating such a long stretch of land so narrow it couldn’t even fit a house?

“What you had then was in effect a symbolic strip, so that there was an incorporated city that would prevent any effort on the part of the city of Atlanta to expand its limits into Cobb County,” Crimmins said.

Georgia Politics

Yesterday, Senator David Perdue delivered his maiden speech on the floor of the United States Senate.

The AJC was kind enough to transcribe parts of the speech.

“I rise today because I believe our republic is in grave danger,” Perdue said. “We need to create a new beginning by dealing with the very real crisis of leadership we face today. It’s why I ran for the Senate in the first place; because we need a new perspective in Washington.”

His economic prescriptions included tax code changes. Perdue hopes eventually for a national sales tax (known as the FairTax) to replace the income and corporate taxes. But in the meantime, he will settle for reducing the corporate rate, ending the “repatriation tax” for companies to bring back overseas profits and getting rid of “corporate welfare.”

He said that those immediate steps would “allow us to fund our infrastructure needs,” among other benefits. A bipartisan group of senators has proposed to use a reduction — but not elimination — of the repatriation tax to pay for more road funding.

“From what I’ve seen so far up here, there is not a great enough sense of urgency in tackling this skyrocketing debt,” he said. “There are no innocent parties up here. Both sides have pushed us to the brink, contributing to this unsustainable level of debt we face today.”

Tenth District Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville), who has served as a military chaplain, was on Fox News.

Eighth District Congressman Austin Scott (R-Tifton) spoke to students at Warner Robins High School,

“I think it’s one of the most important things we do as members of Congress,” said Scott, R-Ga., pointing to the growing disenchantment with some aspects of government. “These young people need to know that they matter.”

One of the first things he discussed with the class was the way the representatives interact during the session. While Scott recognized that the legislative branch is often depicted as a dysfunctional, bipartisan body, he said the group is usually able to come together for the greater good.

The representatives that are brought in for cable television interviews, he said, often represent the most polar ends on a topic, which creates conflict — and interest.

“It’s not as bad as it seems on TV,” Scott said. “For the most part, we’re able to solve some problems.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will be in Atlanta in early May for an event with Georgia Speaker David Ralston to raise money for Christie’s PAC. The timing could lend itself to a trip to Athens for the GOP State Convention. I’m not holding my breath for that, but you never know.

An analysis by the Washington Post uses Georgia as the poster child for overzealous legislative gerrymandering.

Take a look at the Georgia general assembly. There are 236 seats in both the state House and the state Senate. Precisely three of those 236 seats are held by people who aren’t in the same party as the presidential candidate who won the district in 2012.

The lone exceptions are the in state House, where three non-Democrats represent districts that President Obama won. Republican state Reps. Gerald E. Greene and Joyce Chandler and independent state Rep. Rusty Kidd are the exceptions. Kidd’s district went for Obama by a hair, while Chandler’s went for him by two percentage points, according to data shared with The Fix by the election reform group FairVote.

But really, it’s not that surprising. In the state Senate, where there are precisely zero crossover districts, the most Democrat-friendly district held by Republicans went more than seven points (53 percent to 46 percent) for Mitt Romney, and the most Republican-friendly district held by Democrats went nearly 17 points for Obama (!), 58 percent to 41 percent.

In other words, there is no state Senate district that went between 46 percent and 57 percent for Obama. There are really no swing districts, per se.

In the state House, the gerrymander can’t be quite as strong. But still, just 10 of the 180 districts were decided by single digits in the 2012 presidential race, and just five were decided by fewer than five points. That’s basically 3 percent of districts that are genuinely competitive.

Two things I would note. First, it’s hard to take seriously an analysis of gerrymandering that contains the phrase, “Congress is pretty good at gerrymandering” because it suggests that the author is not aware that state legislators and occasionally a non-partisan commission, are in charge of redistricting. Second, as a result of the polarized state legislative districts, in 2014, not a single incumbent legislators in the state lost re-election against a challenger of the opposing party. The only incumbent legislators to fail last year lost their seats in party primary elections.

Yesterday was a rough one for the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission, as they lost their executive director, former judge Ronnie Joe Lane, in the course of the day.

The director of the state judicial watchdog agency has resigned following revelations that he was being paid full-time wages of $120,000 a year for what he reported was part-time work to avoid having to defer his retirement benefits.

Lester Tate, chairman of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, said director Ronnie Joe Lane resigned Monday, the same day the Daily Report published details of Lane’s billing arrangement with the commission. The JQC polices the state’s judges and can recommend disciplinary action, including removal from office, if they stray from the state Code of Judicial Conduct.

“He has decided he wants to step down,” Tate said Monday afternoon. “Ronnie Joe does not want any cloud whatsoever … over the commission and over him. He served honorably in the military and honorably on the bench, and I think he did on the commission as well. He doesn’t want to be a distraction from the work we do.”

Tate said that Lane also asked—and Tate agreed—to waive the 60-day written notification required in order to terminate his JQC contract.

Tate said that he also is “taking every step to make sure that [ethics] cases are continuing to be moved, whatever their stage … and taking every step to make sure they are processed appropriately.”

DeKalb

First, the good news. DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader will chair the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia Federal Policy Committee, which advocates for the interests of county governments before Congress.

And now back to the bad stuff. The AJC asked several folks to weigh-in on the mysterious check for $4000 that was made out in the name of Lee May, but which the DeKalb iCEO says he never received nor received proceeds from.

The check was endorsed “Lee May,” but the signature appears to be forged. May does acknowledge receiving special treatment from the county, which puts homeowners through a claims process before paying for sewer damage repairs, but he says he didn’t realize it at the time.

J. Tom Morgan, a former DeKalb County District Attorney who teaches criminal law at Western Carolina University, said that if May accepted a $4,000 gift from a personal friend, that wouldn’t be illegal. Unless investigators prove the money influenced county business, it would just be another situation that smells, Morgan said.

But with May adamant that he didn’t receive the money or know about the check, and with the check made out to him, some crime must have occurred, such as forgery or theft by deception, he said.

“This is just the tip of an iceberg, is my best guess,” Morgan said.

Transportation Finance Bill Discussed

Several local legislators spoke about this year’s session in Gainesville this week,

A $900 million transportation funding bill was, of course, the most heated of all pieces of legislation this year, a fact acknowledged by state representatives in attendance.

The bill imposes an excise tax of 26 cents per gallon on regular gasoline, with proceeds dedicated to funding road and bridge improvements across the state.

“The transportation bill and some other pieces of legislation got pretty contentious,” said Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville. “But we’re all in this thing together.”

Though the impact on local government is less severe, it is still “not a popular tax,” said Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, adding that the average price of gas will go up six cents a gallon beginning July 1.

“The transportation bill was probably one of the tougher things we’ve done,” Rogers said.

Yet Another Underground Revival

The New York Times has a story this morning about yet another attempt to put lipstick on a pig makeover Underground Atlanta.

Today, after languishing for years as a tacky, costly hole in the center of the city, Underground is due for its next major makeover, one based on a radical concept for this sprawl-loving metropolis: People might actually want to live downtown.

By September, a South Carolina development company is expected to complete its $25.8 million purchase of Underground. Plans discussed by the company, WRS, call for adding roughly 900 apartments and a supermarket, and renovating the cavernous below-street-level mall, home to a row of shuttered nightclubs and vendors hawking hip-hop CDs, $10 jeans and rhinestone cellphone cases.

In the 1970s, a decade characterized by white flight and suburban sprawl, the city of Atlanta shed roughly 70,000 residents. But recent population estimates suggest that the city is adding thousands of residents per year, with some looking for a more soulful urban experience, or at least a way to avoid a soul-deadening commute.

The population boom is helping drive other developments in the city, including the BeltLine, an unfinished 22-mile pathway for pedestrians, bikes and possibly public transit that follows old railroad lines; and Ponce City Market, a project that is transforming a historic Sears, Roebuck & Co. building into new retail, residential and office space.

“I don’t think that our idea is revolutionary,” Ms. Rooks said of Underground. “I think that our timing is spot on. People want to be in urban centers, and they want that authenticity, and they want to be on transit. And that wasn’t always the case.”

The sale, if completed, will come as a relief to the city government, which has been losing roughly $8 million a year on the property. It has also excited urban planners and city dwellers, who believe that Atlanta has for too long allowed its downtown to be dominated by government buildings, anonymous skyscrapers and tourist attractions like the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola museum.

 

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