Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 25, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 25, 2015

On August 25, 325, the Council of Nicea adopted the Nicene Creed.

On August 25, 1864, Union troops stopped artillery bombardment of Atlanta and withdrew from fortifications around the city. On the same day, in Virginia, Confederate forces attacked Federals under Gen. Grant at Ream’s Station.

On August 25, 1877, delegates to the state Constitutional Convention approved a new post-Reconstruction state Constitution, the seventh in state history, to be submitted to the voters on December 5, 1877.

The all-time highest score in a professional baseball game was recorded on August 25, 1922, as the Chicago Cubs beat the Philadelphia Phillies by 26-23.

Paris was liberated from German army control on August 25, 1944.

On August 25, 1950, President Harry S. Truman ordered the seizure of the nation’s private railroads by executive order.

On August 25, 1973, the Allman Brothers of Macon, Georgia released “Ramblin’ Man” as the first single from the album “Brothers and Sisters.” From the Wall Street Journal,

Dickey Betts: In 1969, I was playing guitar in several rock bands that toured central Florida. Whenever I’d have trouble finding a place to stay, my friend Kenny Harwick would let me crash at his garage apartment for a few days in Sarasota. One day he asked me how I was doing with my music and said, “I bet you’re just tryin’ to make a livin’ and doin’ the best you can.”

Then one day in 1972, I was sitting in the kitchen of what we called the Big House in Macon, Ga.—where everyone in the band lived—and decided to finish the lyrics.

My inspiration was Hank Williams’s “Ramblin’ Man,” from 1951. His song and mine are completely different but I liked his mournful, minor-chord feel.

Except for Kenny’s line, the rest of the lyrics were autobiographical.

The WSJ article is worth reading in its entirety if you’re a fan of the Allmans.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

This weekend, Senator David Perdue delivered the keynote address at the Americans for Prosperity “Defending the American Dream” conference in Columbus, Ohio.

From ThePoliticalInsider.com

Senator David Perdue rocked the Americans for Prosperity microphone at the Defending the Dream Conference in Ohio over the weekend, giving a dynamic speech that left many wondering why he isn’t running for president.

Speaking to about 3,000 conservatives at a summit in Columbus, Perdue charged Barack Obama with bypassing Republican majorities on Capitol Hill with a series of executive orders and agency regulations that overstep his constitutional authority.

Perdue, a relatively unknown Senator from Georgia, got a warmer reception from the thousands of assembled conservative grassroots activists than Jeb Bush did.

South Georgia’s own Don Cole wrote about Perdue’s speech,

He agreed that the current administration has multiplied the crisis in a few short years, but he pointed out that our problem did not start with Obama. Perdue noted that historically, one political party has held a super-majority in congress 3 times in the last 100 years.

The first time was with Roosevelt who gave us the New Deal. The second was Lyndon Johnson who gave us the Great Society and War on Poverty. The third was Obama who gave us Dodd-Frank and Obamacare. He summed up history in a few words,

“Now look, I’m just a business guy but I can put at the feet of those three super majorities, the majority of the responsibility for this financial catastrophe that we have right now today. And the irony is that we let the Democrats get away with the ultimate lie they are perpetrating that they still champion the working men and women of America. Now I have to tell you, I’m incensed by that.”

He sees another crisis in three forms. The first form is a Constitutional crisis where the executive branch is running the country without congress by way of unconstitutional executive orders. The second form is a global security crisis. Russia and China are growing in power. When we withdrew from Iran in 2011, it left a vacuum that was filled by ISIS. The third form is a pending nuclear Iran.

Summarizing he noted that our Army is the smallest it has been since WWII, the Navy the smallest it has been since WWI, and the Air Force is the smallest it has ever been. “The problem is that in order to have a strong military, you have to have a strong economy.”

Zpolitics also wrote about Perdue’s trip to Columbus,

“I’ll tell you, it’s a miracle I got through the political process,” Perdue said early in his address. “The political process is not set up for outsiders to be successful. From the money standpoint to the political insider standpoint.”

Perdue went on to call out many of his fellow Senators, who he says have become engrained in the political process for too long and now contribute to Washington’s brokenness.

“In the United States Senate today, there are over 36 Senators who have been in elected office of one form or another for more than 30 years,” Perdue said. “Worse than that, there are 60 United States Senators- these are well-meaning, well-intentioned, very capable men and women, who I do have respect for. But, we have 60 United States Senators today, in this Congress, who’ve been in elected office for more than 20 years. Now that’s the rise of the career politician. That’s not what the Founders had in mind.”

Yesterday, news broke that Atlanta-based Southern Company will buy AGL Resources in a transaction valued at $8 billion dollars in cash and assumption of an additional $4 billion in debt.

“Natural gas will play a greater and greater role in primary energy needs,” Tom Fanning, Southern’s chief executive, said on a conference call. “Driving this deal are growth opportunities.”

The merger “should provide a crucial diversification away from Southern’s headline-grabbing construction projects,” said Angie Storozynski, a utility-industry analyst at Macquarie Group.

Southern’s bid for AGL expands its roster of customers and bolsters its ability to buy low-cost natural gas to supply its own power plants. Burning gas creates far less air pollution than coal, which also could help meet increasingly strict federal utility-pollution limits.

Southern, based in Atlanta, operates 73 power plants and has 4.4 million retail customers in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Last year the company’s power-plant portfolio was 40% coal-powered, 40% gas, 16% nuclear and 4% hydroelectric and other sources, according to Southern’s annual report. By 2020, company management hopes as much as 55% of its electricity will be generated from gas if prices stay low, while coal would be reduced to 21%.

AGL, which also is based in Atlanta, has 4.5 million natural-gas customers in Georgia, Tennessee, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, Illinois and Virginia. It serves additional customers through a joint venture called SouthStar Energy Services.

AGL also operates several gas storage plants and is developing gas pipeline projects, said John Somerhalder II, AGL’s chief executive.

And more from the New York Times,

The deal, announced on Monday, represents an important step for Southern as it moves from coal to natural gas. Once combined, the company will be the second-largest United States utility, with about nine million customers. The scale should lead to some cost-cutting, but Southern isn’t saying. That’s not uncommon, as there are local regulators to win over, and they like to see some savings passed on to consumers.

AGL shareholders are being offered 38 percent more than their stock was worth last week.

From a regulatory perspective, the deal will have to be approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission, as well as agencies in other states and federal agencies like the Federal Trade Commission. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution,

Georgia’s Public Service Commission will begin reviewing the deal in the next weeks and months. Among the commission’s questions will be how does a combined Southern Co.-AGL affect competition? As separate companies the two often compete both at the consumer level and among corporate clients.

Commission Chairman Chuck Eaton said there are plenty of positives to recommend the deal.

“If you’re going to be acquired, it’s great that it’s an Atlanta company, great that it’s Southern Co.,” Eaton said. “That way we can keep it all here.”

It also makes business sense, he said.

“Energy is becoming more and more dependent on natural gas,” Eaton said. “That’s a combination of low prices due to the shale gas out West and the fracking. We’re being heavily encouraged through Obama’s clean power plan to move off coal. Natural gas has become more important.”

Eaton also said the Federal Trade Commission will review the deal for anti-trust implications.

Governor Nathan Deal issued a statement on the proposed merger.

“In Georgia, we’ve laid the foundations for a strong, successful business climate,” said Deal. “Across the state, our commitment to job creation and economic development is evident in the number of companies who’ve expanded or relocated here. The decision by Southern Company and AGL Resources to remain in Georgia is further proof that our pro-jobs, pro-growth policies have put our state on the right track.”

“Not only does this venture keep two Georgia-based energy companies here, it creates one of the most robust energy companies in the United States. Together, Southern Company and AGL Resources employ nearly 10,000 Georgians and have a major economic impact each year on our state. I look forward to the continued growth of these two companies and am confident that together, we’ll keep our state one of the top places in the country for business.”

Two other members of the Georgia Public Service Commission issued a statement on the transaction.

“While I will withhold final judgment until the commission has an opportunity to review this merger, I am impressed that both Southern Company and AGL Resources are committed to continuing to expand their lines and pipelines to support economic development throughout Georgia, and to keep a robust, competitive market place for energy available for customers to have real choices,” said Commissioner Doug Everett of Albany.

“Anything that helps Georgia consumers is of interest to me,” said Commissioner Tim Echols. “The commission will review the merger and I will be looking to see if it could potentially help provide additional natural gas infrastructure, economies of scale, more expertise to Georgia Power, and ultimately more customer choice.”

Georgia DFCS Director Bobby Cagle will hold a Town Hall meeting to discuss the agency’s “Blueprint for Change” at 5:30 PM tonight at the Augusta-Richmond County Library, 823 Telfair Street in Augusta.

Federal judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the contract for probation services between Treutlen County and Judicial Alternatives of Georgia.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Philip Keen Jr., sought to overturn the state statute that outsourced probation services for misdemeanor offenses and municipal code violations. As written in 2000, the statute directed local governments to create their own probation offices or contract with private, for-profit firms.

Most courts opted to contract with private firms that earn income not by charging the local government but by charging probation fees.

“The legislation effectively caused the proliferation of private probation service companies throughout the state,” Bowen noted in his opinion.

How much money local governments might save by contracting with private probation companies is unknown, as is the profits earned by them, Bowen wrote. “However, it is known that many abuses are alleged as a result of the system.”

Bowen found the contract to be valid.

As for the constitutional challenge to the state statute, Bowen wrote that Keen lacks standing – having a stake in the outcome – because he is no longer on probation.

DeKalb School Testing Schedule Questioned

After learning from congregants at a local synagogue that proposed testing dates in the DeKalb County schools conflict with Jewish religious holidays, DeKalb County Commissioner and former School Board Member Nancy Jester wrote to the county superintendent.

I am writing today to express my concern about the dates for the upcoming administration of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) and the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) in the DeKalb County School District. As you know, the testing window includes two of the most sacred holy days for the Jewish faith. We are also the only metro district that has chosen to administer these tests in such a way as to conflict with these important holidays.

I do recognize that the movement of the testing window to mid-September is an attempt to help identify and deploy resources more quickly for those students that are identified as “gifted”. I commend the administration for recognizing the need to improve on this aspect of education. As a mom with two children in elementary school and one in middle school, I fully recognize the challenges of this process and its timeline. But, surely the faith traditions of our friends and neighbors must be given considerable weight when crafting the testing calendar. In 2011, the school district was advised by parents in early October that the testing schedule would include the day after Halloween. Parents pointed out the myriad of problems this created for students and communities, and the district, wisely, adjusted the schedule. When the district is flexible and listens to the community, it gains credibility and goodwill. I believe that our current scheduling conflicts represent just such an opportunity again.

I respectfully ask that you and your administration reconsider the testing window for ITBS and CogAT. I know that you inherited this calendar from your predecessor. Please fix the mistake made by the previous administration and eliminate the scheduling conflict with the testing dates and the Jewish holidays. Please join me in standing with our Jewish students, teachers, friends, and neighbors so that they can fully observe their sacred, holy days. Please make sure that all of our students can have the optimal testing environment they all deserve.

Superintendent Green told 11Alive that he’s looking into the issue.

“I’m reviewing the situation and doing some extensive research,” said DeKalb Schools Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green. “I’ve heard the concerns and take the concerns very seriously.”

Green is considering changing test dates for DeKalb County gifted programs – currently set during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Green has only been on the job about eight weeks and continues to deal with issues he has inherited, including a school calendar created In October, 2014.

“It’s not set in stone for now and it’s something I’m seriously looking at and can potentially change,” said Green.

Green said it is important to look carefully at any changes

“You also don’t want to solve one problem and create another problem, so I want to make sure the research is thorough,” said Green.

An indictment against former DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Cyntha “C.J.” Becker was dismissed in favor of a settlement with the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission.

On Monday, Hart County District Attorney Parks White dismissed six felony charges and a misdemeanor count against former Superior Court Judge Cynthia Becker. In return, Becker signed a consent order with the state judicial watchdog agency that she will never seek judicial office again, according to the dismissal order. Becker also delivered a written apology for what White said in the dismissal were “erroneous statements that became the object of this legal investigation and prosecution.”

White dismissed the indictment to allow Becker’s conduct to be resolved “as an internal ethics matter” with the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, according to the dismissal order.

The grand jury on Thursday indicted Becker—who retired from the DeKalb bench March 1—on four counts of making false statements to JQC members and staff during a private, informal conference last September. She also was charged with two counts of making, or authorizing, false statements in writing to the JQC.

“I am relieved and satisfied that the criminal case is nol-prossed forever, and that the JQC dismissed the false statement claim and the claim that Judge Becker did not follow the law in the case,” Becker’s attorney, Brian Steel, said after White dismissed the indictment Monday morning.

“Judge Becker never committed any crime and it was a shame that she was even indicted.”

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