Category: Board of Education

19
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 19, 2012

“25037” is a bouncing baby boy boxer, who is available for adoption today from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. The shelter is open for adoptions from 8 AM to 4 PM Tuesday through Saturday and from noon to 4 PM on Sunday.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Much has been made of the consent order between Christopher Brady, who took Speaker Ralston to Europe to learn about high-speed trains, and the State Campaign Finance Commission. Under the consent order, Brady will pay a $300 fine for failing to register as a lobbyist on time and for reporting the trip expenditure late.

I believe that the consent order reflects two real problems with the Commission’s case.

First, the Ethics in Government Campaign Finance Act §21-5-70(5)(A) defines “lobbyist” as

Any natural person who, either individually or as an employee of another person, is compensated specifically for undertaking to promote or oppose the passage of any legislation by the General Assembly, or any committee thereof, or the approval or veto of legislation by the Governor;

There are several other subsections, but the unifying theme is that lobbyist are people who promote or oppose the passage of legislation. The logical extension of that definition is “no legislation, no lobbying, no problem” and that was the position taken by Brady’s lawyers. Had the Commission gone forward, it risked having that definition parsed by a court and there’s a real chance that Brady might have prevailed on that argument.

The second problem is that the Commission may lack the resources to pursue three major cases against the kind of people who are able to hire McKenna Long to defend them.

Non-binding: Do you support ending the current practice of unlimited gifts from lobbyists to state legislators by imposing a $100 cap on such gifts?


77.25% of you answered yes, while 18.24% answered no, and 4.5% were undecided. There’s a little more analysis here, and I’ll post some more results this afternoon.

Dennis O’Hayer has an interview with Mike Raffauf, the lawyer representing the Green and Constitution parties in a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Georgia’s strict ballot access law.

Eight Hispanic candidates are running for office in Georgia this year, the highest number ever. One of those candidates is Linda Becquer Pritchett, a niece of a famous salsa singer; Pritchett is running for State House District 63 in Clayton, Fayette, and Fulton counties.

The US Department of Justice has approved district maps for Bibb County Board of Education seats. Bibb County decided earlier this year to qualify candidates for board seats elected this year based on the old maps and it is uncertain whether the old maps or new maps will be used.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said he has talked to several people in the community who have expressed an interest in making sure the new maps are used this year.

“I would fully support that effort,” he said. “It’s the proper and right thing to do for the community.”

If the matter is taken to court over using the new maps, it could reopen qualifying and delay elections, [school board member Gary] Bechtel said.

Robert Brooks, District Attorney for the Tallapoosa Circuit, will run for reelection in the Republican Primary.

“Justice delayed is justice denied. That is why I have made it a priority to secure grants to fund new resources for both victims and witnesses. I have added more victim advocates to help victims and witnesses navigate the complex court process,” Brooks said. “The word is out among the criminal defense attorneys that this office will not back down from the tough fights.”

Another area of focus for the District Attorney’s Office is combating the explosion of hyper-violent juvenile offenders. Brooks said it seems that offenders are getting younger and more violent. That is why he created an impact team to process juvenile cases.

“It is difficult to grasp, but you actually have juveniles who are literally one person crime waves.”

Bremen lawyer Jack Browning is opposing Brooks in the GOP Primary.

The Tallapoosa City Police Department and Pete Bridges, Mayor of Tallapoosa, are the first to announce endorsement of Jack Browning for district attorney.

“With Jack’s extensive experience working with and for local governments, he knows that public safety is vital to the well-being of our community and for the economic development in our county,” Mayor Bridges said.

Tallapoosa Chief of Police, Scott Worthy, added his support, “The Tallapoosa Police Department is 100 percent behind Jack Browning for district attorney.”

Browning currently is chief assistant public defender for Haralson and Polk counties. Earlier he served as the County Attorney for Haralson County, while also practicing law for the Bremen-based firm, Murphy, Murphy and Garner.

A couple things stand out here. First, I’ve never heard of a police department purporting to back a candidate before. Second, that Bremen law firm Browning used to work for bears the name of former Speaker Tom Murphy. The Tallapoosa Circuit comprises Haralson and Polk Counties.

Mayor Pete Bridges of Tallapoosa also endorsed Bill Carruth for state senate in his challenge to incumbent Senator Bill Heath. That seems like an awful lot of drama between Haralson and Polk Counties.

Senator Bill Heath, and challengers Bill Carruth and Jason “J.K.” Rogers, met in a debate hosted by the Paulding County Republican Women’s Club and moderated by the AJC’s Jim Galloway. T-SPLOST was a major issue in the discussion.

None of the State Senate candidates supported the TSPLOST, but Heath admitted to voting to put it on the ballot because he believes that the people should be able to make their own decision on the subject and that he should not make it for them.

Rogers agreed with putting it on the ballot, but he added, “The biggest concern I have, and I’d vote no, is because it will never work if each city and each county don’t agree with one another. You can’t have highways going through different counties and doing different things.”

When asked about alternative methods to solving the situation of Georgia’s lack of transportation funding, each candidate gave a different answer.

Carruth stood strongly against the TSPLOST, refusing to believe it is the last resort to solving the issue. He claimed that there is no definite answer right now but that there must be a collaborative effort between all departments to find one.

Heath disagreed with the many areas of transportation covered by the TSPLOST, saying that it would be more effective to focus on one area.

Rogers’ stance was that more community involvement and efficient leadership would trickle down to solve the issue.

Democratic Senator Vincent Fort (Atlanta) is complaining that constituents received letters saying that they have been removed from the voter rolls because the address at which they are registered no longer exists. The news was brought to the voters via USPS to the address that no longer exists. Fort said

“Either they’re incompetent and they did this unintentionally or they did this intentionally. I don’t know which one. At this point many of the people who got the letters don’t trust the Department of Registration and Elections, and neither do I.”

And I am left with the stunning realization that I agree with Senator Fort on something.

At a Brookhaven forum on T-SPLOST, Phil Kent took aim at the Beltline project that is to be funded by the sales tax increase:

“It’s not a congestion relief project, it’s not a traffic project. God bless them, it’s a nice real estate development project and if the city of Atlanta wants to do that, then by god why doesn’t the city of Atlanta pay for it itself.”

Atlanta Progressive News goes so far to the left that they meet Phil Kent coming around from the far right and also oppose the Beltline’s inclusion in T-SPLOST. APN’s take is that the Beltline is a development project that is designed to gentrify poor neighborhoods and will displace existing residents who are being asked to pay for the T-SPLOST.

Atlanta Progressive News has reported in depth for several years on how the Beltline is primarily a development, rather than a transportation, project, aimed primarily at raising property values and property taxes, thus gentrifying neighborhoods throughout Atlanta.

It is not speculation that the Beltline is a gentrification project.  Indeed, when the Beltline was first presented, and the funding mechanism for the Beltline was supposed to be a series of Beltline Tax Allocation District (TAD) bonds, the planned gentrification was built into the financing mechanism itself.

Furthermore, with sales taxes being a regressive form of taxation, meaning that they disproportionately burden working families, that means that Atlanta’s working families are now being asked to fund their own housing cost burden and possible displacement.

Phil Kent and Matthew Cardinale of APN are left with the stunning realization that they agree on something.

Power to the People

Stricter air quality standards from the US EPA will require less particulate from trucks, power plants, and other sources, and Atlanta is likely to be in compliance by the time the regulations are in full effect:

Jack Capp with the air protection branch of Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division says emissions have been going down in the Atlanta metro area for the past few years and are expected to continue dropping.

“On the books rules are going to drive emissions down quite a bit. That primarily is scrubbers that are being put on all the coal-fired power plants, large industrial boilers having additional pollution controls, as well as new cars and trucks that are a lot cleaner today.”

Lower natural gas prices have helped lower the average Georgia electric bill by $8 this month and are driving down gas bills. Also helping lower bills is the diversification of Georgia’s power portfolio to include more natural gas-powered generation, which results in part from actions of the Georgia Public Service Commission.

The Chairman of France’s Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission toured Plant Vogtle yesterday to learn about the new reactors being built there by Southern Company.

France generates 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear sources – the highest percentage of any nation – and is second only to the U.S. in the number of commercial nuclear power reactors.

Plant Vogtle’s $14 billion expansion represents the first new commercial reactors to be built in the U.S. in three decades, so it will be watched closely by other nations, he said.

In particular, the world will be watching to see if its operator – Southern Nuclear – is able to complete the project safely, on time and within budget.

“The U.S. has been the first nation to move on with nuclear, and it has the largest fleet,” he said. “It is a time when you need to show to the public that we can move on.”

Ends & Pieces

The Pew Center on the States says that Georgia should be saving more money to pay for healthcare expenses for retired employees.

“Actuaries recommend that they set aside in 2010 1.8 billion dollars for that liability. And they set aside about 400 million.”

[Pew spokesman David] Draine says the state still has time to save the money needed. But he says it will require state policymakers to make some tough choices.

They will have to decide whether to raise taxes, cut services or require state retirees and employees to pay more of their own healthcare expenses.

Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources is looking for volunteers to help with their statewide survey of bats.

As part of a long-term, nationwide survey, the DNR Wildlife Resources Division is enlisting volunteers to begin collecting acoustic data from Georgia bats in the wild this month. The effort will help better monitor changes in bat populations, particularly in the face of widespread threats such as white-nose syndrome.
The disease also often referred to as WNS has killed an estimated 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats.

Georgia’s 16 bat species eat insects only and use biological sonar called echolocation to navigate, communicate and find prey. The survey that wildlife biologist Trina Morris is organizing will ask volunteers to drive a 30-mile route or “transect” carrying equipment that can record and decipher bat calls by species.

Perhaps they can get Batdog to lend a paw. [That link contains some mild cursing in text.]

18
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 18, 2012


Charlie Boy is a 46-pound, young Golden Retriever available for adoption from Angels Among Us Rescue.

The Cobb County Animal Shelter is packed after 63 dogs were turned in on a single day last week.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

On Saturday, Governor Nathan Deal was the keynote speaker in Rome, GA at the Georgia Honors Iraq War Veterans event.

“I know we live in a world where it doesn’t appear that the rest of the world appreciates the sacrifice that the United States of America makes on their behalf, as well as on our own behalf, but I can tell you in my travels, in my contacts with people around the rest of the world, they truly understand that the only real bastion of freedom, the only protector of liberty is the United States military,” Deal said to thunderous applause.

During his remarks, Deal called Gold Star Mother Jan Johnson, whose son Justin Johnson was killed in Iraq, to the podium where he presented her with a proclamation declaring June 16, 2012, Celebrate Iraq Veterans and Families Day in the state of Georgia.

“Justin is a Georgia hero; he is an American hero and his service will not be forgotten, nor will we forget your loss,” Deal said.

Deal used the occasion to make a plea for business leaders in the audience to remember that thousands of veterans have returned from Iraq, and many will soon return from Afghanistan, in need of a job.

The Rome News-Tribune also has video of the event.

On Friday, the State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission had a full plate before it, but left some for July.

dismissed the complaint against former Democratic Governor Roy Barnes.

In 2007, Barnes was representing a client before a local zoning board and determined that the broad wording of state ethics law could determine that to be lobbying. He registered as a lobbyist, but before filing any disclosure reports he received an advisory opinion from the commission clarifying the law: He did not have to register. If he was not required to register, Barnes said, how could he have been required to file lobbyist reports?

The Commission also accepted a consent order by the lobbyist, Christopher Brady who took Speaker David Ralston to Europe in 2010.

Brady’s attorney, Stefan Passantino, said the state’s ethics law in effect at the time did not consider Brady’s expenditure on Ralston’s trip to be lobbying. He and the commission had a lengthy discussion about what constitutes lobbying as the law apparently limits it specifically to an attempt to influence an elected official about legislation.

Passantino said no legislation regarding mag-level trains was before the General Assembly at the time.

The Commission voted unanimously to find probable cause that John Oxendine’s campaign violated the Ethics in Government Act in 2010 when it accepted contributions over the individual contribution limit from a number of Alabama Political Action Committees whose funding originated with a single individual.

Oxendine attorney Stefan Passantino did not dispute that his client’s campaign accepted contributions from 10 political action committees and two Rome-based insurance companies that used the PACs in 2008 to funnel $120,000 to Oxendine’s campaign.

Instead, Passantino argued that the law placed an unfair burden on the campaign to know that the contributions were all linked to the same individuals and organizations.

Finally the Commission deferred taking action on complaints against Governor Deal and his 2010 campaign.

A second member of the Commission has referred to lawsuits by the former executive director and her assistant as “frivolous.”

Dunwoody City Council member Adrian Bonser will be the first public official charged before the city’s ethics board.

 

In a May 29 letter, Dunwoody City Council submitted a formal letter of complaint to the Board of Ethics against Bonser. The letter, signed by the mayor and the other five members of the council, alleges that Bonser violated sections of Dunwoody’s city charter and code of ethics, and lists as evidence the report of an investigation commissioned by the mayor.

“There should be a presumption of innocence and it has not been that way with certain council members [in this case],” Bonser said. “I think the entire investigation was a completely emotional and knee-jerk reaction and a poor use of taxpayer dollars.”

The council held executive sessions in late January and early February to discuss what is now known as “Project Renaissance,” a public-private partnership with John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods to develop 35 acres in the Georgetown area into homes, shops, parks and a possible municipal complex.

After information from the meetings was leaked to a blogger and a newspaper, Mayor Mike Davis brought in former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson to investigate the leak. Wilson’s report concludes Bonser and then-City Attorney Brian Anderson shared the information. Both have denied being the source of a leak.

Anderson resigned when faced with the threat of termination. On May 29, the council approved a separation agreement that provides him with two months’ severance pay.

Muscogee County Coroner Bill Thrower, who was bounced from the ballot after the check written by his wife bounced, is appealing the decision.

Supporters of the Fulton Science Academy contributed to Senator John Albers’s campaign, shockingly because he also supported Fulton Science Academy’s charter being renewed. This is seriously a news story, AJC? Tuck your agenda in, it’s showing.

Backers of Ron Paul for President will continue to show up to Republican events until it’s actually time to elect a President in their quixotic quest for a nomination their candidates has given up on.

Ron Paul has given up on becoming president, but loyal supporters are promising to promote the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman’s principles at the Republican national convention this summer, a potential complication for Mitt Romney’s goal of a peaceful coronation.

Paul backers have taken over state Republican conventions Nevada and Maine, and had a strong showing this weekend in Iowa, aiming to increase their voice and clout at the nominating convention in Tampa, Fla.

“We want to send Ron Paul-inspired folks to that convention to show we’re not going away,” says Iowa Republican David Fischer, a top Paul backer in the state.

Georgia atheists are organizing a group to lobby the General Assembly. Now the term “godless lobbyist” can be used literally. In what I’m sure is pure coincidence, the Georgia Solar Energy Association will also be forming a lobbying arm.

A Minnesota case with the potential for revisiting Citizens United may be accepted for hearing by the United States Supreme Court.

More than half of the local governments that would receive more than a billion dollars under the T-SPLOST to be voted on July 31st have failed to produce plans detailing what they will do with the money, according to the AJC.

Austin Scott obviously has seen all the Terminator movies and understands the threat posed by SkyNet, as he is teaming up with Sen. Rand Paul to offer legislation to restrict the domestic use of drones:

“We’re not opposed to the use of drones. But their use has to be consistent with the established rules with regard to search and seizure. The same thing that you would have to obtain to use a wiretap, you would have to have for the use of a drone,” Scott said. “This has the potential to be a huge invasion.”

H.R. 5925 includes exemptions for border patrols, and emergency use by law enforcement or national security authorities. Ultimately, Scott said, the legislation could address privacy rules when it comes to the commercial use of drones as well.

In that story, Jim Galloway notes that Rep. Scott plays left-field for the Republican congressional team, while Rand Paul plays center-field. So this proposal literally comes out of left-field.

Scott Hammond was sworn in as Upson County Commissioner for district 3 on an interim basis until a new commissioner is elected in the July 31st Special Election.

The Sumter County Board of Elections removed two school board candidates from the ballot.

Brantley Wills, a former resident of Webster County, had moved to Sumter County and had changed his residency but not his voter registration.

NeSmith said the Georgia Secretary of State is emphatic that a candidate cannot seek office in a district in which he does not live or is not registered to vote.

Linda Wright was seeking to run in District 1. When she presented herself to qualify for election, she was told that she actually lives in District 6. She said she and her family had been voting in District 1 for many years. However, she paid her qualifying fee for District 1.

NeSmith reiterated the Secretary of State’s position that it doesn’t matter where a candidate has been voting, even if it’s erroneous, but that she can’t seek office in a district in which she does not live.

He said the road on which Wright lives splits Districts 1 and 6.

“It’s the candidates’ responsibility to go to the map and make sure they live where they think they live because there can be clerical errors … “ NeSmith said. “The Secretary of State’s Office says if she’s been voting in the wrong district, this should be corrected immediately.”

The Sumter County Boards of Elections and Education are also defendants in a federal lawsuit challenging the school board district lines.

The contest for sole County Commissioner in Murray County turned personal as both candidates have close relatives who are employed by the county and traded charges.

[Challenger Brittany] Pittman charged that [Commissioner Greg] Hogan hired his daughter, Sarah Hogan Brindle, in the county’s 911 department, with Hogan responding that he had not — it was the department head (Peggy Vick) who had done the hiring. Hogan then countered that if Pittman were elected, she could arbitrarily give her husband — Parks and Recreation Director Anthony Pittman — a $20,000 raise if she wanted to.

Hogan also fielded a question from the audience about why he changed parties, from running as a Democrat during last year’s special election to fill the unexpired term of David Ridley to running as a Republican this year. Pittman is also running as a Republican.

“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me,” he said. “There are certain things morally that I don’t believe in, like gay marriage. I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

The statement received applause from the audience.

Snellville Mayor Democrat Kellie Kautz denies that she planned to propose banning firearms from parks.

Hispanic voters have the potential to change the direction of electoral politics in Georgia, according to political scientists.

“(Georgia) is one of the states that has a lower registration rate,” said Matt Barreto, a political scientist at the University of Washington whose research is referenced in the center’s report. “I think that poses a significant challenge to Latino empowerment.”

The Center for American Progress report suggests that some 88,200 Hispanics are eligible to vote in Georgia but not registered.

And if another 120,000 Hispanics in the state who are eligible to become citizens start the process and become active voters, their voting power could sway a Republican state in favor of Democratic candidates in the future.

“I think I can honestly say that Georgia’s not exactly thought of as a swing state (in national elections), but at the same time, there’s a substantial new bloc of people that could end up really putting it into play,” said Philip Wolgin an immigration policy analyst at the Center for American Progress’ left-leaning Action Fund.

“Of course, the question is, are they going to register? Are they going to naturalize and vote?”

Rock-em, sock-em robots in CD 9, 12

The AJC writes that the Republican Primary between State Rep. Doug Collins and radio talker Martha Zoller will provide fireworks as each tries to distinguish their record from an opponent with whom they share much ideology.

Not surprisingly, the 12th District Republican Primary to challenge Democrat John Barrow is also becoming a brawl.

Fundraising leader Wright McLeod is now facing questions about the improbability of maximum $2500 contributions to his campaign by employees of a supporter.

Consider Brittany Best, an executive assistant with Mullins Management in Evans.

Official records show Best, 24, has only voted once and never donated to a federal or state-level campaign in Georgia. Until this year, that is.

Her boss, Joe Mullins, is big backer of Republican Wright McLeod, an Augusta attorney seeking to oust Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow.

Last Nov. 10, the 12th Congressional District hopeful’s campaign finance disclosure shows, Mullins gave $2,500 — the most the law allows. Joann Mullins, for whom McLeod’s campaign listed the same address as Joe, also gave $2,500.

Until recently employed at the local Pizza Joint in addition to working for Mullins, she apparently isn’t wealthy.

But records show that on March 30 — the day before the end of the reporting period — she, too, gave McLeod $2,500.

On the same day, so did Heather Fehr, also an executive assistant to Mullins. Like Best, Fehr had never before donated to a federal campaign.

Fehr didn’t return three phone calls, but I reached Best, who said she was “very uncomfortable” discussing her donation.

For now, of course, there’s no proof that anyone did anything illegal.

But a lot of things still just don’t add up.

Added to legitimate questions about McLeod’s devotion to the Republican Party, and his truthiness, further bad news may irreparably damage his campaign.

Ends & Pieces

Lawrenceville will celebrate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 today

The Philadelphia Winn Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution will host an event, “Ring the Bells for 1812,” at 11:30 AM

[O]ne lesser-known story is that of Captain James Lawrence, the namesake of Lawrenceville. Lawrence gave one of the most famous naval cries in history — “Don’t give up the ship!” — when he was mortally wounded in battle, a press release from the DAR chapter pointed out.

During Monday’s event, at the gazebo in Lawrenceville’s Courthouse Square, Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson will sign a proclation in recognition of the historic day, and the public is encouraged to bring a bell to ring as part of the ceremony.

Dredging the Savannah River to allow deeper access to the Port of Savannah will benefit Middle Georgia as well as the coast.

“It’s possibly the highest benefit-to-cost of any project the Army Corps of Engineers has ever done,” Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, said last week.

No study has attached a prediction of new jobs to the port project, but economic development officials along the corridor of Interstate 16, which runs from Savannah to Macon, say they will be in even better position to recruit new industry, especially logistics companies and distribution centers.

“I can’t even guess the numbers of jobs, but this could have a tremendous impact,” said Pat Topping, executive vice president of the Macon Economic Development Commission.

A recent economic impact study estimated Georgia’s deepwater ports accounted for one of every 12 jobs in Georgia in 2011 — or about 352,000 full- and part-time jobs. More than 20,000 jobs in Middle Georgia were found to be port-supported, with most of them in five counties — Bibb, Houston, Washington, Laurens and Baldwin.

Glynn County public schools were ranked among the worst school system bargains in the country.

Kevin McCoy, a former world champion, won the Georgia state disc golf championship in Augusta and was given a green hoodie.

The Brookhaven Bucks, part of the wooden-bad summer development Sunbelt League play the Berkley Lake Tides tonight at the Oglethorpe University campus, and the Atlanta Crackers on Wednesday.

15
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 15, 2012

This is “Reeces,” a black lab mix who  is in run 118 at Cobb County Animal Services and his ID# is 544247. He is probably in immediate danger of euthanasia, as his hold is expired and Cobb County had 63 animals come into the shelter on Tuesday, and possibly even more yesterday.

If you’re considering getting a dog or cat, please consider a shelter animal or adopting from a rescue organization. Thousands of healthy dogs and cats are put down every year in Georgia, and we’re in the middle of the worst part of the year for strays.

Cobb County’s Shelter hours for Adoptions are: Tuesday – Saturday 9:30 AM. to 5:30 PM and Sunday 2 to 5 PM.

 

Happy belated birthday to Augusta, which celebrated with 276 candles on their cake yesterday.

[I]n a letter that was dated June 14, 1736, James Oglethorpe ordered authorities to lay out our town.

In 1739, Oglethorpe himself came to visit the town he had created. He stayed 10 days, then left, but not before leaving Augusta leaders with a thoughtful and logical growth plan.

Augusta’s leaders appear to have disregarded much of it, beginning a tradition that some would say continues.

GaPundit’s Event Calendar

We have launched out Event Calendar and invite political professionals, lobbyists, county parties, and other organizations to post their announcements. Email me for instructions on how to begin posting. We will be including events posted on the calendar in our morning emails. Anyone who is interested in helping maintain the calendar is also asked to let me know.

Posting your political events on our calendar will help get them in front of our more than 5000 daily email subscribers.

To check out the Event Calendar, hit this link or visit GaPundit.com and click on “Events” in the menu bar.

Republican State Rep. Robert Dickey is holding a Peaches and Politics fundraiser at Dickey Farms on Thursday, June 21st from 6 to 8 PM. It will feature Speaker David Ralston, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, House Majority Secretary Allen Peake, Ag. Commissioner Gary Black, SOS Brian Kemp, and Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens.

Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Peachtree City’s council is docked the Mayor’s pay from $750 per month to $75 in order to reimburse the city for expenses incurred to defend the Mayor against a libel suit. Former Mayor Harold Logsdon sued current Mayor Don Haddix personally, not as Mayor; the city’s insurance company denied coverage to Haddix twice before agreeing to cover defense costs. Haddix is threatening to cost taxpayers even more money by either resigning and triggering a special election or unspecified legal action.

Apparently, PTC council is serving as a cautionary tale; when the Fayette City Council started arguing, Mayor Greg Clifton said, “I don’t want this to turn into a Peachtree City Council. I want this to be a council that gets along.”

Fayette County Commissioner Robert Horgan is running for reelection in the Republican Primary, and PTC municipal judge Stephen Ott qualified for Fayette County State Court Judge against incumbent Judge Carla Wong McMillian.

Richmond County Sheriff candidate Scott Peebles had campaign signs set on fire last week, one-upping candidate Richard Roundtree, whose sign was used as a weapon in a fight between two women. Roundtree will remain in the race after a complaint alleging he owed back federal taxes was dismissed upon a showing that Roundtree has a payment plan.

Five candidates have announced challenges to incumbent Augusta Commissioner Matt Aitken. Qualifying is next week.

Jeremy Hobbs remains on the ballot for Columbus Council District 8 after producing a Georgia Power bill that was accepted as proof that he meets the residence requirement.

Democratic lawyer Scott Drake announced his campaign against incumbent Republican Senator Don Balfour, saying, “I can no longer stand silently on the sidelines. Democracy is not a spectator sport and public office is about service, not feathering one’s own special interest nest.” In a heavily Republican district, I’ll go ahead and predict that Drake does indeed stay on the sidelines after being crushed in the General Election.

Former state Senator Lee Hawkins, who is unopposed in the election to succeed State Rep. Doug Collins, has signed the pledge to support a cap on lobbyist gifts to legislators. He is the only Hall County legislative candidate to do so.

The South Hall Republican Club will host a debate for candidates for County Commission next Tuesday, June 19th at 6:30 PM at the Spout Springs library in Flowery Branch.

Governor Deal sat for a Q-and-A last week to discuss the $1 billion project to add lanes to I-75 and I-575 in Cobb County.

GPB’s Orlando Montoya discusses the race in the 12th Congressional District:

Dublin attorney Maria Sheffield is courting Tea Party voters focusing on her history as a grassroots organizer.

“This race is just about electing a true conservative who comes from our movement.” Sheffield says. “I think it’s about going to Washington and not just simply casting a vote but it’s about doing the hard work that needs to be done.”

Cherokee County school board district 2 candidates debated.

The candidacies of Willie Saunders against Augusta Superior Court Judge Carlisle Overstreet, and Christopher NeSmith against Northern Circuit Superior Court Judge Thomas Hodges have been challenged in letters to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Clarence Johnson’s campaign against Fulton County Superior Court Judge Todd Markle is also being challenged. The eligibility challenges in all three cases relate to taxes owed.

The Atlanta Tea Party sent out a press release yesterday saying the campaign to increase your taxes via T-SPLOST is deceptive and calling T-SPLOSt advocates are “worried and desperate.”

Lawyers, Guns, and Money

The State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission will meet today and may consider complaints filed against Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign.

Snellville’s City Council will consider banning guns in city parks at the July 9th meeting. Mayor Kellie Kautz, a Democrat, said, “I’m all for people having the right to carry their weapons but, we want to make sure that they’re using them properly.” They may have a problem doing that, as Georgia law preempts municipalities from regulating gun rights.

President Obama is not only leaking white voters, he’s also leaking dollars as roughly 90% of donors of more than $200 to his 2008 campaign have not yet renewed their pledges.

“The 2008 donors who were most likely to give again in 2012 are those with ideological scores most similar to Obama’s, whereas moderate-to-conservative donors and those on far left are significantly less likely to re-up,” [Stanford political scientist Adam] Bonica said.

Obama may try to make up for the shortage of donors by hitting their cells: a ruling by the Federal Elections Commission will allow his campaign to tap its database of more than a million mobile numbers for donations via text. According to The Hill:

Text donations would be capped at between $10 and $50 per billing cycle and campaigns would enforce that restriction through tracking donations from a single user’s mobile phone number to a single premium short code assigned to the political committee. The short code would also enable the aggregator and carriers to ensure “the $50 limit is never exceeded for one political recipient.”

Newt Gingrich’s former head of digital operations Vincent Harris says it will be a game-changer:

The ability to accept donations via text will greatly increase the percentage of donations coming in from mobile users as a whole. On the Gingrich campaign mobile users made up 18% of visitors to the campaign website but only 8% of our donations came via mobile users. The ability to text in a donation should help close that gap. In 2009 I ran the mobile operations for Bob McDonnell’s gubernatorial race in Virginia. We briefly tried raising money off of our opt-in list and had users text back a donation amount that was followed up by a live caller who took credit card information. If we had used the technology discussed on Monday, our program would have been much more successful.

Contrary to previously-published reports, a Gingrich spokesman says that the Newtster’s speaking fees have gone up in some cases and remained steady in others.

Gingrich spokesman RC Hammond said the new rates are not in fact a discount:

Inside the beltway has bounced from $20,000 to $25,000. Continental U.S. remains at $60,000 a speech. And, heading abroad is as much as $150,000.

Turns out there is a demand for new ideas, solutions and innovation Newt is booked into the fall.

Former Georgia State Rep. Gloria Bromell Tinubu (D) may not have escaped a runoff in the Democratic Primary for South Carolina’s Seventh Congressional District after all. A lawsuit asks a judge to order a runoff election.

The state Election Commission will decide Friday whether to call a runoff between Coastal Carolina economics professor Gloria Bromell Tinubu and attorney Preston Brittain. At issue is whether to count the votes of state Rep. Ted Vick, who withdrew May 25 following his arrest on a drunken driving charge, but remained on the ballot.

Without Vick’s more than 2,300 votes, Bromell Tinubu won the four-way race outright, with 52 percent of the vote to Brittain’s 39 percent. But five names were on the ballot. Both the Democratic Party and Brittain’s campaign argue none of the five received a majority, so a runoff is necessary; otherwise, voters are being disenfranchised, they argue.

Days after Vick withdrew, top Democrats called a news conference to endorse 32-year-old Brittain of Myrtle Beach, including U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn.

The director of the state Republican Party, Matt Moore, on Wednesday accused Harpootlian and Columbia insiders of “trying to steal the nomination from Gloria Tinubu,” after getting egg on their face with the endorsement.

But Harpootlian called that nonsense, saying the party is only trying to ensure voters aren’t disenfranchised.

Republicans “need to take a deep breath and some medication, and go home and let us try to resolve this in a legal fashion,” he said.

Nydia Tisdale, who was ordered out of the Cumming City Council chambers by Mayor Ford Gravitt for daring to assert her rights under the state Open Meetings Act, filed a federal lawsuit against Gravitt, also naming the police chief, and deputy chief.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed against Gravitt last week by Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.

Tisdale’s attorney Gerry Weber said while his client appreciates what Olens is doing, her lawsuit seeks personal damages.

“[First] we’re seeking an order from the court ensuring that Ms. Tisdale and other citizens are able to attend the Cumming City Council meetings and to film them,” said Weber.

“We’re also seeking damages for her for what happened to her on the day that she was physically pulled out of the meeting by the chief of police and deputy chief. And the last thing we’re seeking is under the new Open Meetings Law, when it’s violated, that there are civil penalties.”

In the suit, Tisdale asks for a jury trial to hear the case.

“City council meetings are the public’s business,” said Weber. “We think it’s entirely appropriate for a jury to evaluate the excluding of a citizen, a taxpayer from a public meeting.

Tisdale is a blogger for AboutForsyth.com, and Weber said she was recording the meeting so that citizens who could not attend would have access to the proceedings.

According to personal financial disclosures on file with the Georgia Ethics Campaign Finance Commission, Chatham County legislators did nearly $6.5 million in business with the state in 2011. The vast majority of the money was from Medicaid payments for consumers who chose to do business with pharmacies, a home healthcare company, or medical offices owned by legislators.

Speaking of Medicaid, Georgia’s program may be $300 million short for the next fiscal year.

The state Department of Community Health plans to ask the state legislature for roughly $308.2 million to make up the gap for fiscal 2013, Vince Harris, the agency’s chief financial officer, told board members.

The looming deficit comes at a time when the state health agency is also facing the addition of another 600,000-plus Georgians to its Medicaid rolls starting in 2014, as part of the program’s expansion under the health care law.

“The budget numbers that we have are very daunting,” Commissioner David Cook said.

The health care program is also looking at a $90 million deficit for the current fiscal year.

Florida legislators’ net worth got hammered by property value declines and stock market losses. If you think that’s tough, Florida Governor Rick Scott was dead, according to state voter rolls.

Georgia leads the nation in foreclosures with a 30% increase over May 2011, and Atlanta is in second place among the twenty largest metro areas. Carroll County also saw foreclosures up both month-to-month and over the past year.

“There’s no positive news in foreclosures in our region,” said Dr. Joey Smith, assistant professor of economics at University of West Georgia. “We’re seeing foreclosures going up from last year and last month.”

Smith said housing prices are starting to rise some in the area because buyers are bidding against one another for foreclosed homes.

“A lot of neighborhoods where we’re seeing foreclosures are transitioning from owner-occupied homes to rental units,” he said.

The Grantville City Council says, “I’ll see your foreclosure and raise you two demolitions,” as it moves forward to demolish two houses owned by Mayor Jim Sells.

“Some of you think this is about houses that need to be demolished,” Sells said. “What it is about is contempt for your mayor.”

Carrollton’s open carry ordinance — for alcohol — appears to be working for the community.

The Carrollton City Council on June 4 approved two amendments to its alcoholic beverage ordinance. One amendment allows people to carry drinks they have purchased at downtown businesses anywhere in the downtown business area. The second amendment gives the city manager authority to issue special-use permits for organizations to serve alcoholic beverages on city property, such as the amphitheater or city parks.

“What I’m proposing is for people of legal age, if you legally purchase the alcohol, that you be allowed to go from place to place, with the drink in a solo cup,” Coleman said at the June 4 council meeting. “If it’s a Styrofoam cup, with an Irish Pub logo on it, it’s even better, because it shows it was legally purchased there. You can’t sit on the square and bring your cooler and knock down two dozen beers. This is not Savannah, New Orleans or Las Vegas.”

If you’re considering filing a false lien against a public official, you may want to rethink that, as it’s now a felony.

a new state law against so-called sovereign citizens who engage in “paper terrorism” to harass public officials…. makes it a felony to knowingly file false liens against government employees.

5
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 5, 2012


“Dalton” (left) and “Dakota” (right) are German Shepherd mix puppies, age 3 months, weighing about 6 pounds, who are available for adoption today from Walton Animal Control Service.

This morning, twenty dogs will be euthanized at the Clayton County Animal Shelter. Clayton County also has a cat whose owner is a United States soldier serving in Afghanistan. The soldier’s mother could no longer care for the cat and had to turn it in to the shelter. It would be a fine and patriotic thing to adopt this cat.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) will finish his current term at PPT, but will not seek reelection to the leadership post. Jim Galloway has the full text of an email Williams sent to Senate colleagues, and we have an excerpt:

Senators,

It is a very difficult decision for one to give up a position of political power. Often it takes a lost election or scandalous event for one to part with the notoriety of a higher position. While I’ve been affected by neither loss nor scandal, I can say that conceding a place of leadership over such a fine group of men and women is not easy.

I believe that leadership positions major chairmanships should be rotated or term-limited so that we may all gain from the talents of many and allow other members the opportunity to serve in higher positions. History proves that corruption can occur when one is too closely connected to lobbyists and has forgotten that the people, not lobbying groups, are who we represent.

Additionally, members that have consolidated powers as leaders or major chairmen over time face the temptation of exploiting their power for both themselves and their corporate contributors.

These are some qualifications that I feel should be considered when electing the next PPT:

1. He or she should be humble, upright, trustworthy and of good character.

2. He or she should be free of any conflicts of interest and must not use the office as a means of promoting his or her livelihood. In the future, we should look at making the PPT job a salaried position at a “living” wage.

3. He or she should be faithful to his or her spouse and family. If we elect a leader with wavering morals, we can all be put to shame. We’ve all seen what happens in our own General Assembly when leaders cannot control themselves.

4. He or she needs to be intelligent, patient and capable of building a consensus.

It is my hope that we can find a consensus candidate without having a fight over the position.

Predictably, some politicians said nice things about Williams.

Americans for Prosperity Georgia has released its 2011-2012 Legislative Scorecard, which can be downloaded as a .pdf file here.

“Americans for Prosperity is pleased to provide this snapshot view of where legislators have stood on key issues affecting Georgians’ prosperity,” said Virginia Galloway, State Director of AFP-GA. “This guide is one important way that taxpayers can become educated and engaged in important policies affecting their everyday lives.”

State legislators are scored on 12 separate pieces of legislation including Zero Based Budgeting (SB 33), Student Scholarships (HB 325), Revenue & Tax Relief Act (HB 386), GA Government Accountability Act (HB 456), the State Charter School Commission (HB 797) and the Charter School Constitutional Amendment (HR 1162), among others.

Andre Walker of Georgia Unfiltered announced that Democratic Party of Georgia Rashad Richey has dismissed his lawsuit claiming that Walker libeled and slandered Richey by publishing information about Richey’s criminal record. This probably means that the Georgia Unfiltered Legal Defense Fund will become a legal offense fund as Walker seeks attorney’s fees from Richey. Consider donating today to preserve free speech.

In a separate post, Walker covers the story of Stacii Jae,the Director of Special Events in Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office who also raised considerable money for Obama’s campaign. Jae apparently “hosted” a how-to-strip video featuring poledancers and designed to teach the “booty clap” among other moves.

Speaking of Barack Obama’s campaign, the Democratic Party of Georgia emailed out invitations to the President’s fundraiser June 26, 2012 at 11:30 AM at the Westin Peachtree Plaza. No word on whether DPG Political Director Rashad Richey will be able to get Secret Service clearance for the event. With tickets starting at $500 per person, it’s good to see that the President is making things easier on the little people.

Neal Boortz announced his retirement from full-time radio yesterday, though he will continue to appear on his old show with shorter commentary and may fill-in for his successor Herman Cain or for Erick Erickson.

Yesterday, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Greg Griffin as the new state auditor and Alan Skelton as acting state accounting officer, beginning July 1st.

Griffin, the current accounting officer, will succeed Russell Hinton, who is retiring on June 30. The governor’s appointment of state auditor must be confirmed by the General Assembly next session. Skelton is deputy director with the State Accounting Office.

Democratic candidates in Clayton County spoke to “dozens of people” at a forum sponsored by the Clayton Democratic Party.

Clayton County Board of Education candidate Xavier Ross will be questioned as a “person of interest” in connection with “thousands of dollars” missing and unaccounted for from a local PTA. In a letter to local police, Superintendent Edmond Heatley wrote,

“This correspondence comes as a formal report of an alleged crime that took place at Martin Luther King [Jr.] Elementary School. It has been alleged that former PTA Treasurer, Mr. Xavier Ross, has not accounted for thousands of dollars that he was entrusted with depositing into the appropriate PTA bank account for the purpose of paying for items for students at the school …”

Cherokee County is moving to evict the recycling company that failed to make payments on a $1.8 million loan, which forced county taxpayers to pick up the tab. Because the company has filed bankruptcy, they will be able to continue operating the facility. The company owner is also accused by local tea party activists of disguising campaign contributions to a Cherokee County Commissioner who is not running for reelection.

The City of Nelson sits at the line between Cherokee and Pickens counties, and will elect two city council members on July 31st. Edith Portillo and Tami Loggins are running to replace Larry Sellers, who resigned earlier this year.

Cherokee County Republican Party hosted the first in a series of debates for local candidates, and featured three candidates for Tax Commissioner. We look forward to the debate between School Board Chair candidates in which Republican Danny Dukes is expected to answer every questions with lyrics from a 1970s southern rock anthem.

Cherokee’s incumbent Sheriff Roger Garrison debated Republican Primary challenger David Waters.

Issues with the drug testing program for employees at Plant Vogtle have been corrected, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Prospective candidates for Augusta Commission and Richmond County Board of Education continue to wait for new district lines to be released by the federal court overseeing the redistricting.

In Fayette County, where qualifying for county commission was also delayed by federal courts drawing new lines, eight Republicans and one Democrat have qualified for three county commission seats.

Fayette County Board of Education Chair Leonard Presberg is complaining that the County Commission’s insistence about defending at-large school board and commission districts is costing the board money that could otherwise be used for education.

Coweta County will see few contested local elections this year.

The private company that proposes to privatize Gwinnett County’s Briscoe Field asked County Commissioners to delay a vote on the staff’s recommendation to reject the proposal, saying they were concerned that residents in former County Commissioner Shirley Fanning-Lasseter’s district would not be represented.

The citizens’ group opposing changes to Briscoe Field said,

“Today’s press conference by Propeller Investments is simply an admission that they know they’re going to lose. The proposal does nothing to make a valid business case for expansion of Briscoe Field and no amount of press conferences or delays will change that fact.”

A sign vendor has agreed to offer discounted yard signs to GaPundit readers. One-color yardsigns on corrugated plastic with an included metal H-stand cost less than $3.00 each and two-color signs with included stands for less than $3.50 each. Shipping is not included but will be calculated before you order. Email us for more information.

9
May

Sumter County Grand Jury recommends removing Board of Education


The Americus Times-Recorder writes that a county Grand Jury has recommended removing the members of the county Board of Education.

the Grand Jury’s investigative committee determined the evidence  points to the abuse of power of the Board and in all made 29 recommendations and stated that in the short-term solutions can be derived from removing power and influence from the Board and be subject to monitoring by an independent,  outside authority.

The report says that the Grand Jury “finds it difficult to entrust the multi-million dollar budget of the system to individual board members who find managing their $2,000 expense accounts too complicated to fully understand and comply,” and recommends that board members “pay overages due within 30 days or face possible criminal charges, establish[] a procedure for monitoring expenditures and collecting balances and adopt[] the state travel expense reimbursement policy for school board travel expenses.”

In reviewing expense reports the Grand Jury determined there is “a lack of accountability for using public funds, concerning travel expenses and mileage.” The reports states that when some Board members provided testimony at the Grand Jury hearings, the investigative committee as a whole found their justifications as to the definition of travel expenses “unbelievable,” as there was a vast discrepancy in interpretation.

“Some members did comply while others blatantly stated that they would not reimburse the system, because they do not feel that they owe the system any money and ‘previous boards do not dictate the current board’ ” the report states.