Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 4, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 4, 2015

Georgia delegates convened in Augusta on May 4, 1789 to approve a new state Constitution and consider amendments.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest led troops who captured raiders near Rome, Georgia who were intent on disrupting the Western & Atlantic Railroad on May 3, 1863.

General William Tecumseh Sherman began the Atlanta Campaign on May 3, 1864 with troops marching from Tennessee toward Catoosa Springs, Georgia.

One year and one day later, on May 4, 1865, Atlanta surrendered. Another year later, on May 4, 1865, the last meeting of the Confederate cabinet convened in the old Georgia State Bank Building, which was located at the site of the present-day Wilkes County Courthouse in Washington, Georgia.

On May 2, 1886, Jefferson Davis left Atlanta, headed to Savannah.

Savannah officials had successfully solicited Davis to attend a variety of special ceremonies and events being planned in Savannah. On the way, the train stopped briefly in Forsyth and Macon, where the ex-Confederate president was greeted by crowds and spoke briefly from the back of his train. Although he didn’t leave the train, Davis would return to Macon the following year for a more formal visit.

Margaret Mitchell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Gone With the Wind on May 3, 1937.

The Weather Channel began broadcasting from Cobb County, Georgia on May 2, 1982.

The Macon Telegraph has an interesting story on the Civil War Re-enactors who wear blue.

“We’d rather pretend to be a Yankee than bring real ones down here,” said [Andy Carson from Albany]. “At some events, you’ll be blue Saturday and gray Sunday. … That blue’ll suck the intelligence right out of you.”

The action requires the re-enactors to bring outfits for both sides.

“Sometimes we actually have to change uniforms in the middle of a battle,” said Ric Palmer, 71, of Cleveland, Georgia. “We’ve actually changed uniforms twice in one battle.”

A re-enactor since he was 21, Palmer had a great-grandfather who served in the Confederate Army.

“And it’s funny about this hobby,” he said, “it’s hard to find Yankees down here. We’ll go to a re-enactment up North, well, they have trouble finding Yankees up there, too.”

Read more here:

On May 4 a few years back, I married Mrs. GaPundit, though she didn’t answer to that name at the time. Still doesn’t. Happy Anniversary to my beloved wife.

Happy Star Wars Day! May the Fourth Be With You!

Georgia Politics

On Friday, Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 63, legislation overhauling the employer GED tax credit. The bill replaces the existing, underutilized program while increasing the credit amount available to Georgia job creators.

“By further strengthening our workforce, we’ll keep Georgia the No. 1 place in which to do business,” Deal said. “Far too often, government hinders, rather than helps, its jobs creators. Along with other pro-growth measures, this legislation removes barriers to employers willing to invest in Georgia’s workforce. Encouraging education and professional development is good for business and for our state.”

Deal also signed House Bill 71, which increases transparency and accountability at the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

“A good government is one that works fairly and openly, that balances the need for protection of confidential information with the right to know how and why decisions are made,” Deal said.  “This law will better protect our citizens and allow for transparency when matters of justice are considered. At the same time, it will assist board members, who must make difficult, oftentimes complex, decisions in balancing their dual responsibilities.”

The Dawson News covered the signing of HB 71 in Dawsonville,

Known as the parole board transparency act, House Bill 71 originated in Dawson County last summer, though the inspiration to seek answers dates back 24 years when a young man’s decision to “do the right thing” led to his brutal murder.

Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, authored the legislation following the state’s pardons and parole board’s vote last summer to commute the death sentence of Tommy Lee Waldrip without sharing how or why they came to that decision.

Just like the murder of Keith Evans shook the tightknit Dawson County community 23 years before, the board’s decision to overturn Waldrip’s death sentence for his part in the slaying devastated the family, as well as many that worked the case over the years, including Tanner, a deputy at the time.

“I think this is a great day in Dawson County for the governor to be here, to hear his comments and concerns with the decision that’s been made and his support though this entire process,” Tanner said. “To the Evans family, even though this is not going to change the outcome of their case, I’m hopeful that they know that through the tragedy they faced other people will not have to endure that same outcome.”

A former assistant district attorney in the circuit, Deal recalled a time years ago when he jokingly said the best case scenario a prosecutor could hope for in Dawson County was a mistrial.

“It was difficult to obtain convictions for anything. That has changed fortunately,” he said. “To have a death sentence imposed is not an easy undertaking. To be able to try a case and then convince a jury that the death penalty is the appropriate punishment is not easy to do.”

Having that sentence overturned is disheartening, he said, “because those who overturn it have not felt the pain associated with why that penalty was imposed in the first place.”

Gov. Deal also traveled to Columbus last week to sign House Bill 70,

Students, staff and supporters packed the Reese Road Leadership Academy gym Thursday afternoon as they celebrated the culmination of their real-life civics lesson.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 70 at the school where the effort to designate an official state mammal for Georgia started.

At the beginning of the school year, Reese Road fourth-grader Kevin Green was working on a Cub Scout project with Pack 362 at Nazareth Baptist Church. Required to list some state symbols, he noticed Georgia was one of only a few states to not have an official mammal.

Kevin mentioned this anomaly to his mother, Muscogee County School Board vice chairwoman Pat Hugley Green of District 1, and she mentioned it to Reese Road principal Pam McCoy. Since the curriculum calls for the first grade to study habitats and Kevin’s sister, Kaylah, is a Reese Road first-grader, it seemed like an ideal project for the first-grade classes to explore.

They wrote a letter to Hugley Green’s sister-in-law, state Rep. Carolyn Hugley, D-Columbus, asking her to sponsor such legislation. After researching the subject, the first-graders voted and chose the gray fox as the proposed state mammal. On Feb. 11, more than 80 Reese Road first-graders were escorted to the Georgia Capitol, where some of them testified before the Special Rules Committee in support of HB 70.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources intervened and suggested the white-tailed deer instead, and that version of the bill passed the legislature.

No word on whether the first-graders will hire a lobbyist for the next legislative proposal.

This morning at 10:00 AM, Gov. Deal will sign House Bill 170, the Transportation Finance Act.

Last Thursday, Gov. Deal signed an Executive Order naming former State House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal as Chief Judge of the Georgia Tax Tribunal. Here’s what’s in the bill:

1. Most drivers will see a gas tax increase at the pump in the range of 5 to 8 cents per gallon
2. Future EV buyers will not receive a state income tax credit
3. Alternative fuel vehicle owners will see a $200-$300 car tag increase
4. Trucker will pay more in diesel tax and for heavy vehicles
5. If you stay in a Ga Hotel or Motel you’ll pay an extra $5/night

Tomorrow morning, Gov. Deal will sign “Rachel’s Law“ at the Georgia State Capitol. From the Associated Press via The Gainesville Times,

A bill that would levy an annual $5,000 on strip clubs and fine pimps $2,500 to set up a fund for sexually exploited children is scheduled to be signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal, topping off what some legislators are calling the “year of the child” in the 2015 General Assembly.

Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, has been trying for six years to get the legislature to set up a Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to pay for housing, health care and other services for children forced into prostitution. She says Atlanta has become one of the biggest magnets in the country for such activity.

Hall County has not been immune, as evidenced by the case of 4-year-old girl who was trafficked for sex. Maria Mercedes Vasquez-Quiroz and Digno de Jesus Mejia were found guilty Thursday in that case. Junior Alexander Delcid-Leon, also involved, pleaded guilty the week before.

Unterman says money called for in Senate Bill 8 will pay for “therapy, including residential treatment with psychological, behavioral remediation and reintegration back into the education system” and possibly job placement. She also authored Senate Resolution 7, a proposed constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot in November 2016, authorizing SB 8. Many of the child victims, mostly girls, are between the ages of 12 and 14, Unterman said.

Victor Hill shoots woman in Gwinnett

Last night, Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill was involved in a shooting in Lawrenceville.

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill declined to cooperate with investigators after the accidental shooting of a female acquaintance Sunday afternoon in Gwinnett County, police said.

The shooting was reported just before 7 p.m. at a model home for the Park Haven community near Grayson in unincorporated Lawrenceville, where Hill had been with the woman, reportedly a real estate worker and friend of the sheriff. The woman, whose identity hasn’t been released, was taken to Gwinnett Medical Center in critical condition, said Sgt. Brian Doan, spokesman for Gwinnett police.

“As of right now he’s refusing to cooperate with the Gwinnett County Police Department on this investigation,” Doan told reporters around 9 p.m on Sunday. “He refuses to give any statements.”

Hill sat in a local detective’s car in front of the home until about 8:30 p.m., when he was loaded into an SUV with his attorney and associates and allowed to leave the scene. His attorney, Musa M. Ghanayem, who also represented Hill in a previous public corruption case, declined to comment to the Daily Post.

Doan said the sheriff wasn’t receiving “special treatment.”

“When you’re dealing with an active sheriff in the state of Georgia, there’s certain laws and things that have to be done,” he said, adding that no charges may ever be filed in the ongoing investigation. “It’s not like an average citizen when we can take them to jail for, let’s say, reckless conduct. That’s why we’ve been in consultation with our district attorney’s office.”

A Common Cause No More?

Kyle Wingfield writes this morning about the watchdog that caught its own tail – Common Cause Georgia.

Watching a dog chase its tail is funny. Watching a watchdog chase its tail — and catch it, and gnaw on it until it draws blood — isn’t.

But that is what Common Cause did in April, ousting two members from the Georgia chapter’s board. Two more board members resigned last week in protest.

Nationally, Common Cause has long been nonpartisan in name but left-leaning in practice. The state chapter, however, for years had more independence. Common Cause Georgia’s board, meticulously balanced among Republicans, Democrats and independents, worked with the group’s mission of “holding power accountable” but didn’t endorse everything the national organization did.

“We built a different identity from the national organization,” says Bob Irvin, an Atlanta Republican who was kicked off the state chapter’s board. “And they let us do it. And I think they let us do it because they realized that was the way it had to be in Georgia.”

Last fall, under a new national president, Miles Rapoport, that independent streak came to be viewed as untenable. What’s more, Common Cause added “economic, social and environmental justice” to its mission. Those are loaded words politically.

“It is a very left-leaning agenda that national is promoting,” says Terry Taylor, a Smyrna Democrat who was also purged from the state board. “If I wanted to find a place to advocate for those things, there are plenty of places to go. I wanted desperately to have a place that was nonpartisan that could talk about good government and holding power accountable and transparency. That’s what I wanted Common Cause to do.”

The fourt Common Cause Board Members who were purged issued a statement,

Statement by Common Cause Georgia Board Members, May 4, 2015

We are 4 of 12 members – one third — of the board of Common Cause Georgia (CCGA). We are Democrats, Republicans, and Independentsand we include three board chairmen – past, present, and chairman-elect. We are leaving the board because we are moderates and conservatives and we are no longer welcome in the newly defined, ideological Common Cause created by the new national (CCDC) president, Miles Rapoport. All four of us are also calling on both CCDC and CCGA to stop falsely describing themselves as “nonpartisan.”

Two of us (Bob and Terry) have been removed from the CCGA board by Mr. Rapoport. The other two of us have resigned from the CCGA board because we do not support the new ideological straitjacket being imposed. CCDC and Mr. Rapoport want to eliminate diversity on the Common Cause Georgia boardand we object to that.

CCGA has been a nonpartisan watchdog organizationand our board roster, leadership, and above all our positions and issues have reflected that. This has given us political credibility, and moreover we believe it reflects the desire of many Americans to work together for the good of all of us. We have been committed to holding power accountable – for transparency, accountability, and ethics in government. We have pursued issues that citizens of all ideologies and both parties can agree on: putting a cap on lobbyist gifts, eliminating pay-to-play, establishing strong ethics boards and policies in state and local governments, and nonpartisan redistricting. We have supported CCDC issues insofar as our board could reach a consensus for them.

CCDC has always allowed us to set our own agenda in Georgia. Now, however, the new national presidenthas decided this is no longer acceptable. He has expanded CCDC’s positions to the left, beyond “holding power accountable” to include, for example, “social, economic, and environmental justice.” He has demanded that all of us on the CCGA board agree to support whatever positions CCDC takes, “without further complaint”, including even working on issues in which we do not personally believe. He has demanded that we do this, or that we must resign or be removed.

Instead of CCGA being nonpartisan, he insists we become, like CCDC, a left-leaning policy advocacy organization. We have said NO to Mr. Rapoport. As a result, former board chairman Bob Irvin, Republican, and incoming board chairman Terry Taylor, Democrat, have been purged by the national president. Current board chairman Lucius Morton, Republican, has resigned in protest. Board member Phyllis Fraley, Independent, has resignedprotesting CCDC’s new ideological mandate.

Georgia needs a truly nonpartisan watchdog organization advocating for transparency, accountability, and ethics in state and local government. CCGA is no longer that. We hope a new organization will arise in its place to fill that role.

Bob Irvin, Atlanta
Terry Taylor, Smyrna
Lucius Morton, Columbus
Phyllis Fraley, Atlanta

Georgia Republican State Convention

Chris Christie GAGOP

New Jersey Governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate Chris Christie will join Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp at a breakfast event on Friday, May 15, in Athens before the kick-off of the Georgia Republican Party State Convention.

Gov. Christie, who was re-elected by the people of New Jersey in 2013, is a former U.S. Attorney for the New Jersey District and Chairman of the Republican Governors Association. He is considering a bid for the presidency in 2016.

“As momentum for the ‘SEC Primary’ continues to grow, likely candidates for president are beginning to realize that the road to the White House runs through Georgia,” said Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who spearheaded efforts to secure speakers for the 2015 State Party Convention. “We are excited to welcome Governor Christie to Georgia and look forward to hearing his vision for America’s future.

Governor Christie and Sec. Kemp will speak at a breakfast event on Friday, May 15, at 8:30AM in the Athena Ballroom at the Classic Center. The GAGOP Convention begins at 2PM.

Tickets for the breakfast are available for purchase online.

Marco Rubio GAGOP

Florida senator and 2016 presidential candidate Marco Rubio will speak at the 2015 Georgia Republican Party Convention in Athens.

Former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Rubio was elected to the United States Senate in 2010. He serves on the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Committee on Foreign Relations, Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Rubio announced his candidacy for president on April 13, 2015 at the Freedom Tower in Miami, Florida.

Senator Rubio is scheduled to speak on Friday, May 15, at approximately 3PM in the Athena Ballroom. Times, locations, and availability for featured speakers during the convention are subject to change.

Tickets for the convention are available for purchase at Discounted guest tickets ($25) are available on-site during the convention for College and Teen Republicans with a photo ID.

Marco Rubio will also hold a private lunch fundraiser at Freeman, Mathis & Gary on May 15, 2015, with a private reception from 11:30 to Noon and lunch itself from Noon to 1 PM.

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