Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 13, 2016


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 13, 2016

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 in what is now Albemarle County, Virginia. Jefferson served as Governor of Virginia, United States Secretary of State, delegate to the Second Continental Congress, and Third President of the United States. Jefferson is credited with writing the first draft of the Declaration of Independence.

Union troops at Fort Sumter in Charleston’s harbor surrendered on April 13, 1861.

On April 13, Jack Nicklaus won his fifth Masters in 1975 and his sixth in 1986; Tiger Woods won his first (1997); Seve Ballesteros won in 1980; Billy Caspers in 1970; Mike Weir in 2003; and Bubba Watson won in 2014.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Deal signed Senate Bill 255, passed in the wake of a decision by a federal judge holding Georgia’s garnishment statute unconstitutional.

From the AJC,

The new law is intended to fix a number of issues. The previous law didn’t require creditors to tell debtors that some money — such as Social Security benefits, welfare payments and workers’ compensation — is off-limits to garnishments.

From an earlier story by the Fulton County Daily Report,

“What you had before was a confusing law,” said Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, a supporter of the bill. “This really restructures the whole thing.”

The bill was modified in the House Judiciary Committee to allow banks to hold garnished funds for five days. Prior law allowed banks to hold garnished funds for 20 days.

While the bill does not change any of the funds that can or cannot be garnished, it provides for standardized forms that make clear the exemptions to garnishment, in following with then-Senior Judge Marvin Shoob’s order.

Gov. Deal also spoke more about his veto of religious liberty legislation,

Deal has been showered with praise from business groups, gay rights advocates and others since the veto on March 28. But it infuriated religious conservatives and strained his ties with rank-and-file Republican lawmakers who overwhelmingly supported the legislation. In the interview, he said the criticism has taken a toll.

“Well, I think all of us want to be liked by everybody,” he said. “But when you come to issues like that, you can’t be liked by everybody because people have such divided opinions about something. My job as governor is to do what I think is best in the overall interest of the state of Georgia and its citizens as a whole. And that’s what I did.”

The two-term Republican is pondering another divisive debate as he considers whether to sign “campus carry” legislation that would allow permit holders to carry guns on the campuses of Georgia’s public colleges and universities.

Another veto could deepen the tension between the governor and GOP legislators, and Deal is torn over what to do after lawmakers defied his personal requests for changes that would exempt on-campus childcare centers and make other exceptions to the law.

“Admittedly, it’s another tough decision. Would I have preferred they not put that on my plate (without the changes)? Yes, I would have preferred that,” he said. “But they did. And I have to come, once again, to doing what I think is in the best interest of all the citizens of the state.”

House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) and his primary opponent Sam Snider both spoke at the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Snider’s platform was more about personal beliefs and the political philosophy he would use to shape his decisions.  Speaker Ralston’s answers mainly focused on economic drivers and infrastructure development that he has been able to arrange for District 7.

Speaker Ralston said that he was running to be a representative for District 7 and did not emphasize that being Speaker brought greater access to political perks for the District.  From his examples, though, it was clear that if District 7 was no longer the home district of the Speaker of the House, projects and funds would slow to a trickle.  Some examples of home district projects Speaker Ralston cited was ending 30 years of state inaction on improving Hwy. 5 and bringing  a  top-tier public university education option to a central location in District 7 with University of North Georgia’s new campus in Blue Ridge.

Mr. Snider, on the other hand, made it clear that if elected, his focus would be lower taxes, reducing government size, less top-down regulations, and use of sales taxes rather than income tax to fund the state.  Mr. Snider did not comment on how he would bring Georgia tax dollars to work in District 7.

Speaker Ralston picked up on Mr. Snider’s brushstroke  comments about how he, Mr. Snider, would vote in office.  Speaker Ralston said that it is easy to use bumper sticker slogans, but a representative needs to look at innovative ways to solve problems.

Mr. Snider’s statements caused Speaker Ralston to justify his statewide actions on supporting a gas tax to increase Georgia Department of Transportation budget.  The tax is based on the volume of gas that a person buys, not the end total cost of the gas.   Speaker Ralston said, “People know that we don’t have a transportation fairy up there dropping money out of the sky.”  He continued that GDOT’s revenue streams had not been recalculated in 40 years and the lack of adequate funds were showing in poor road conditions all over the state.  Also, Speaker Ralston saw increasing GDOT’s budget as a way to move the state out of federal control over Georgia’s roads and bridges.

The Marietta Daily Journal takes a look at the lopsided fundraising reports in the Cobb Commission Chair race, where incumbent Tim Lee faces challengers Mike Boyce and Larry Savage.

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert took on challenger Lonzy Edwards in a forum.

The event lacked the same kind of fiery accusations of a recent news conference where Edwards accused Reichert and the county of using pension funds to help cover the general fund budget. Reichert and other county officials called that assertion patently false.

During Tuesday’s forum, Reichert said he wants to continue the progress that’s taken place in Macon, while Edwards said a new leader is needed to move a stagnant community forward.

“We have united the people,” Reichert said. “The consolidation was a physical structure, but people throughout Macon-Bibb recognize, realize and understand that we are in this boat together.”

Edwards, who served on the Bibb County Commission from 2007-2013, countered that he doesn’t think consolidation has led to more unity.

“We put the government together, but by no means brought the people together,” Edwards said. “Race relations is worse than it’s ever been.”

Georgia State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens issued a consumer alert about a 25 percent rate hike by Allstate.

Hudgens warned policyholders that the 25 percent figure is only an average rate change for the entire state, and that many policyholders should be prepared to see a rate change as high as 58.3 percent.

“I am deeply concerned about this filing and the impact it could have on consumers,” Hudgens said. “Georgia law prohibits me from stopping or delaying this increase unless an actuarial examination proves the rate to be legally excessive.”

Hudgens directed Georgia department staff Monday to initiate a professional level examination of the Allstate filing to determine if the rate increase is defendable under state law. If the results of the examination show that the filing cannot adequately support the increase, he intends to take every measure allowed to him by law to protect policyholders.

Chatham County elections officials may ask legislators for changes in procedures to fill vacancies in local elections, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Now four months into what could be a record-breaking year for elections in Chatham County, the local elections board says it wants to have a chat with state legislators about reducing the burden of mandatory special elections to fill vacancies.

Since March, the Chatham County Board of Elections has administered three elections, and it is set to hold at least two more with the May 24 primaries and the Nov. 8 general election.

Throw in a runoff in July for the primaries and the county has tied its record of six elections in one year, Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges said Monday.

In addition, it’s possible for at least two more runoffs after the Nov. 8 general election — one for state and local and one for federal races — Bridges said, bringing the possible number of elections when all is said and done to eight.

During the past year, two elected officials have died in office, and in both cases, the law required a special election to fill the remainder of the term — despite what little time was left of it.

That’s a tremendous burden on local taxpayers and candidates, Heimes argued during the Board of Elections’ monthly meeting Monday, not to mention the headaches created for the local office last month when two elections were held simultaneously.

The AJC Political Insider reports on an improving financial picture for the Georgia Republican Party.

A flood of filing fees from candidates running in the May 24 primaries and some of the usual special-interest donors have helped the party pay off most of its debt, according to state disclosure reports filed this week.

At the end of 2015, the party reported having only $11,000 in the bank and $231,000 in debt. Three months later, on March 31, Republican officials reported almost no debt and about $170,000 in the bank.

The state Democratic Party, meanwhile, reported having $476,000 left on hand heading into the primary season, the first time it has listed more in state filings than the GOP on March 31 of an election year in at least a decade.

The Democrats were buoyed enough by their success to put out a press release announcing a field program helmed by a pair of veteran staffers from battleground states. It’s financed partly by a $100,000 donation from New York investor Philip Munger, a deep-pocketed backer of President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Hope springs eternal, but so does delusion. Georgia Democrats, despite 2014 to the contrary, think they’ll be competitive this year and plan to spend even more Other People’s Money in 2016.

The Chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party made an emergency conference call Thursday to reveal that the polls may be turning in their favor. Richmond County Democratic Chair Lowell Greenbaum is confident. “These people giving money feel very secure that their polling shows that the Democrats can beat the Republicans in the state,” he says.

Georgia is typically a Red state with both state houses and the Governorship dominated by Republicans. But confident, liberal investors think they have a chance to change the tide. “They have given the state party an initial sum of about six figures. But the plan is to go up to seven figures,” says Greenbaum.

The Georgia State Ethics Commission shows that the Democrats have raised 300,000 more dollars than Republicans. Heavy investments by leadership and potentially favorable polling data has inspired a new energy in Georgia Dems that they haven’t had in a long time. “If we can see the polling which is coming out in a week or so that shows that the Democrats can win Georgia, we’re going to go out and win it.”

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