via Press Release dated January 14, 2014
Atlanta – Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp today certified the results for January 7, 2014 Special Election for State House District 22. The certified results of state and federal races can be found on the Secretary of State’s website: http://sos.georgia.gov/elections.
In certifying the results, Secretary of State Brian Kemp affirmed that all counties have provided to the state the total votes tabulated for each candidate. Further, Secretary of State Kemp affirms that the returns are a true and correct tabulation of the certified returns received by this office from each county.
Additionally, with the certification, the time period for a candidate for state office to request a recount begins. Candidates must submit requests within 2 business days from certification per O.C.G.A § 21-2-495. Certification does not preclude the state from continuing any current investigations related to the General Election or from pursuing any future allegations that may arise from the election.
Being that a recount request has been submitted in District 22, pursuant to O.C.G.A. 21-2-495 (c), the Secretary of State has directed the county election superintendents in the 22nd House District to conduct a recount of all votes cast for State Representative during the January 7, 2014 election. The superintendents have been directed to immediately order such recount and complete the recount no later than noon on Wednesday, January 15, 2014.
Brian Kemp has been Secretary of State since January 2010. Among the office’s wide-ranging responsibilities, the Secretary of State is charged with conducting secure, accessible and fair elections, the registration of corporations, the oversight and regulation of securities and the administration of professional license holders.
This ten-month old black-and-brindle lab mix will be euthanized at 1 AM Friday if no one steps up to foster or rescue him. Volunteers with the Murray County Animal Shelter says that while he has sad eyes, he’s a happy, calm, and gentle dog who will make a great pet. Transportation is available for this guy or any other dog at Murray County. The $115 adoption fee covers the cost for vetting, shots, heartworm check, and neutering. If you’re interested in fostering, the Shelter has several rescues it works with to facilitate foster homes. Email Lisa Hester or call 770-441-0329 if you can help.
The National Republican Congressional Committee will continue to play Elmer Fudd to Georgia Democratic Congressman John Barrow’s Bugs Bunny, announcing yet again that they’re
hunting wabbits targeting Barrow. Occasional Georgia resident Rob Simms, recently named Political Director for the NRCC, may have a better chance of catching the wascal beating Barrow.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has subpoenaed five Fulton County Elections Board officials to appear before a State Elections Board investigation into mishaps in last year’s voting and requested production of documents.
He says he had no choice.“I felt like we were not getting the type of cooperation we needed in getting documents that we needed to be ready for the hearing.”
Senator Josh McKoon took a few minutes to discuss the Senate Rules, specifically the limitation on who can file a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee and what voters who feel shut out from filing a complaint can do. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.
Congratulations to Judge Carla Wong McMillian on her appointment by Governor Nathan Deal to the Georgia Court of Appeals. Judge McMillian, who served on the Fayette County State Court, is the first Asian-American judge on the state’s appellate court.
On Wednesday, January 23d, members of the state judiciary will be presenting their budget requests to the General Assembly.
When the Georgia Senate convenes today for the Fourth Legislative Day, the first and only bill on the calendar will be Senate Bill 24, which delegates to the Department of Community Health the power to levy the so-called hospital bed tax.
Gov. Nathan Deal urged the quick passage of a Medicaid funding plan that would spare legislators from raising taxes and instead allow a state agency to fill the gaping hole in Georgia’s budget.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston on Wednesday also endorsed the governor’s plan to extend the 2-year-old funding mechanism, known as the “bed tax,” despite criticism from conservatives who oppose tax increases. The plan is expected to reach a Senate vote Thursday, and House lawmakers could debate it later this month.
We have had one of the best years of economic development in quite some time. A few notable companies that have chosen Georgia include Baxter, General Motors, and Caterpillar, along with numerous others. We did this with your help, with both the private and the public sector doing their parts!
As governor, my goal is to see Georgia become the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business. I have made that clear from the beginning, because I believe that is the best path to economic growth and the quickest way to get Georgians into jobs. And we are not all that far off from reaching our target: For two years in a row, we have ranked in the top five for business climate by Site Selection Magazine, and we ranked No. 3 for doing business in 2012 by Area Development Magazine. But we certainly still have some hurdles that we must overcome before we get there.
This morning I will focus my remarks on one of the highest hurdles facing state government, that of healthcare.Right now, the federal government pays a little under 66 cents for every dollar of Medicaid expenditure, leaving the state with the remaining 34 cents per dollar, which in 2012 amounted to $2.5B as the state share.For the past three years, hospitals have been contributing their part to help generate funds to pay for medical costs of the Medicaid program. Every dollar they have given has essentially resulted in two additional dollars from the federal government that in part can be used to increase Medicaid payments to the hospitals. But the time has come to determine whether they will continue their contribution through the provider fee. I have been informed that 10 to 14 hospitals will be faced with possible closure if the provider fee does not continue. These are hospitals that serve a large number of Medicaid patients.I propose giving the Department of Community Health board authority over the hospital provider fee, with the stipulation that reauthorization be required every four years by legislation.Of course, these fees are not new. In fact, we are one of 47 states that have either a nursing home or hospital provider fee—or both. It makes sense to me that, in Georgia, given the similarity of these two fees, we should house the authority and management of both of them under one roof for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.Sometimes it feels like when we have nearly conquered all of our hurdles, the federal government begins to place even more hurdles in our path.Georgians who have already received a paycheck this January have no doubt noticed that their payroll taxes went up and their take-home salary went down. This is the cost of entitlements. If you think your taxes went up a lot this month, just wait till we have to pay for “free health care.” Free never cost so much.
Governor Deal also mentioned that he has “a tweeter account” as the staffer in charge of social media cringed in the back.
Best line of the day goes to Georgia Speaker David Ralston, who referred to the Senate’s new gift cap as “more of a sun visor than a cap.”
Speaker Ralston responded to the Senate’s opening bid on ethics reform by repeating that he favors a complete ban.
Ralston says House lawmakers plan to propose a permanent change regarding lobbyist gifts in the near future. Ralston plans to introduce legislation that would include a complete ban on items given by lobbyists.
One of the largest criticisms of the new Senate rule is that there are a number of exceptions. For instance, the law allows lobbyists to give multiple gifts that are $100 or less. It also allows for lobbyists to pay for travel and a number of other expenses related to Senators’ official duties.
We need to start paying a decent salary to these 236 lawmakers sent to Atlanta each year.
The idea was considered and ultimately discarded by the alliance of conservatives, liberals and civic-minded pushing this year’s $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers.
Newly-minted State Senator Mike Dugan would like to see term limits for state legislators.
Dugan said repeatedly on the campaign trail that he hopes to introduce term limits in the General Assembly. He hopes to work toward this goal in 2013.
“What I’d like is a maximum of 10 years, which is five terms,” Dugan said. “The longest a person can be president is 10 years.
He can assume two years of a predecessor’s term and run for two terms on his own. My thought process is this can’t be more complicated than being president. If we limit that position then I think we can limit these others. There are also term limits on the Georgia governor.”
If 10 years are served, Dugan feels it should be required that a legislator sit out two terms, or four years, before running again.
“The common refrain is that we do have term limits — they are called voters,” said Dugan. “The way campaign contributions are set up now it’s really not that way. The other side is, if you have 10 years to get something done, instead of worrying about getting reelected in perpetuity you will actually make the tough decisions.”
State Sen. Mike Crane, R-Newnan, started the 2013 Georgia General Assembly session off with a bang when he became the most vocal opponent of a set of rules that would restore much of the power that Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle was stripped of two years ago.
“This may be the end of my political aspirations, but I will never stop fighting for liberty,” Crane said on the Senate floor.
On Tuesday, the second day of the session, Crane reiterated his position.
Crane addressed his colleagues and told them he would bring up the matter each of the remaining 38 days in the legislative session.
“Do you think freedom is at the helm of this body?” he asked.
After Crane’s comments, Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, expressed exasperation with his fellow sophomore. Both were elected in special elections to complete terms of men Gov. Nathan Deal appointed to state jobs.
“I think we need to decide if we’re more interested in getting things done or in making a point,” he said, noting that the rule empowering Cagle had already been voted on and was settled.
Sen. Bill Jackson, R-Appling, stood up to add, “I just wanted to say ‘amen’ to what Sen. Wilkinson for what he said.”
“They don’t think that anybody is going to buy into it this year,” said Kay Godwin, a Republican activist from south Georgia. “It’s not the right time, but it’s the right thing to do. We’ve mentioned to everybody that this is the direction that we want to go in. The legislators all agree with us. And the tea party.”
If you get what you pay for, then Georgians should have no reason to complain. They’ve been paying for an army of fry cooks and dishwashers.
The problem is that lawmakers themselves are loathe to raise the pay issue. “I’m not going to vote for an increase in legislative pay when I have school teachers in every district that I represent who are being furloughed,” said state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, the Capitol’s most aggressive proponent of a $100 cap on gifts for lawmakers.
No, livable wages for state lawmakers would have to be an issue taken up by a fellow with plenty of clout and little to lose. A governor in his second term, for instance.
Big wins by the Atlanta Falcons would likely help them make the case for taxpayer funding of a new stadium, according to Governor Deal.
House Republicans may begin moving forward on the project of trimming the footprint of Fulton County government, as GOPers now constitute a majority on the Fulton County delegation after redistricting.
Passing legislation that would allow north Fulton to break away to form a new Milton County remains impractical, mainly because the idea’s most powerful advocate, House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, has never been able to assemble enough votes.
More doable this year: a reconfiguration of the County Commission that would give north Fulton more input into the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax funds and services for nearly 1 million people.
The Legislature could also beef up the powers of the commission chairman and protect the county manager from being fired without cause, changes that could lessen the circus atmosphere of public meetings.
Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, said such structural changes won’t end the push for secession.
“Maybe lessen the steam,” he said. “Trying to get Milton County has several hurdles that nobody’s figured out how to get around. So in the meantime, let’s make what we have work better.”
The investigation into possible corruption in DeKalb County is now focussing on six companies that made millions from the County, while CEO Burrell Ellis’s former campaign manager Kevin Ross has also been the target of a seach warrant.
“I am appalled to hear Gwinnett County and corruption mentioned together,” said Nash, who joined the board after a special grand jury’s land investigation led to the public disgrace of two commissioners but faced the issue again when a commissioner pleaded guilty in a federal bribery probe last year. “Wrongdoing by leaders hurts the community, breaks the public trust and embarrasses all of those who call Gwinnett home.”
Nash pointed to changes in the county’s ethics and land purchase laws during her time in office, but said commissioners will keep working to restore trust with citizens.
“We know that we’ll have to work hard to overcome this, and we’ve taken steps to do just that,” she said. “Ultimately, it will be our behavior over time that will help us regain the community’s trust.”
This year, she said, the board will continue to try to restore public trust by hosting town hall meetings. Plus, commissioners approved a new lead investigator for the district attorney’s office, added specifically to root out corruption among public officials. She also noted the new non-profit entity created to keep public dollars separate and transparent in the Partnerhips Gwinnett economic development initiative.
An historic reduction in crime statistics in Savannah may be the result of cooked books rather than better enforcement, according to some Aldermen.
Alderman Tony Thomas, saying he had at least six constituent complaints to support his claim, leveled that allegation during Tuesday’s annual City Council retreat.
“I do not think the picture is as rosy as has been painted,” Thomas said. “We need to paint a real picture of what’s going on in this community.”
Mayor Pro Tem Van Johnson said he has received similar complaints about officers trying to dissuade citizens from filing reports or complaints about officers who are slow to respond.
“They are under tremendous pressure to bring statistics down,” Johnson said.
This sweet brown dog is a mother at ten months of age, and she and her puppies are destined to be euthanized tomorrow morning if no one steps up to adopt or foster. They are available for adoption immediately and transportation can be arranged. These dogs can be adopted or fostered individually and any not saved by 2 AM Friday will be euthanized.
There are a half-dozen other dogs in dire need before Thursday. Transportation for any of these dogs to the Atlanta area is available for free and we have sponsors who are willing to pay the adoption fee for any of these dogs. Email me if you’re interested in adopting and have any questions.
To save one of these souls, here is the contact information:
Megan706-260-5251 (daytime Tu,Th,F)(TEXT or call)
706-463-2194, TEXT messages only
If you are not able to save a dog at this time, you also may make a donation on behalf of one of the dogs or for a “hard to place” dog. To make a donation, simply go to www.paypal.com, click on the “send money” tab on the home page and enter the shelter acct, firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line, indicate this is a donation for the (brief descrip and/or ID # of animal or “hard to place dog”). IMPORTANT: Be sure to designate the payment as a “gift” or PayPal will take part of it.
The State Elections Board dismissed seven charges against the Fulton County Board of Elections in which voters did not receive mail-in ballots they requested. The SEB sent official reprimands and instructions for remedial actions on two charges.
“It’s good to hear these cases, because it’s building up for what’s to come,” [Secretary of State Brian] Kemp said after the meeting, referring to more than 100 complaints from this year’s presidential election, such as poll workers wrongly steering some voters to provisional ballots and denying those ballots to others.
“We are having a difficult time meeting our obligations for Medicaid as it is,” said [Governor Nathan] Deal. “I do not foresee a situation in which the state would have another 2, 3, or 4 billion dollars over the next ten years to dedicate to that purpose.”
Medicaid is the joint federal-state health program for the poor. The federal government has promised to cover the full cost of the expansion for the first three years, and about 90 percent thereafter.
Health policy analyst Tim Sweeney of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute said the expansion is a major opportunity for the state.
“If you look at in context, it’s about a one or two percent increase in total state spending which is definitely affordable in the long run considering the dramatic benefits we get from it,” said Sweeney.
How does the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute fail to understand that there is no such thing as “free money from the federal government”?
Senator Jack Murphy has endorsed allowing state voters to decide whether to allow Pari-mutuel betting on horse races. I personally oppose it despite the fact that I love horses and I love racing in almost any form. The problem is the disjunction between the romantic notion of horse-racing as a high-class sport undertaken in resort-like conditions.
Foxfield aside, commercial horse racing facilities become squalid and filled with desperate people quickly. They also create a large number of people who are dependent upon commercial gambling for their livelihood, which makes the next step into casino gambling all but inevitable, because most racetracks are not commercially-viable without some form of on-premises casino or electronic gaming machines.
State Representative-elect Michael Caldwell (R) is being lauded for returning excess campaign contributions on a pro rata basis.
Caldwell told the Tribune Wednesday he returned 13.8 percent of each donor’s contributions, an amount corresponding with his leftover funds after winning the House seat against Democrat Lillian Burnaman in November’s general election.
“We wrote the checks on Nov. 7, the day after the election ended, and they were mailed last week,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell’s website shows a balance of $444, money contributors told him to keep for his next campaign after he mailed out the checks.
“I’m not going to make that decision for them. That has to be up to them,” Caldwell said.
During his campaign, Caldwell did not accept money from lobbyists or out-of-state donors and recorded all monetary and in-kind contributions.
“The state requires that you disclose contributions of more than $100, but we did every penny. I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Good news in education: more students are passing the writing test that is required for high school graduation.
93% of students passed the exam this year, up from 91% last year. State education officials started phasing out the high school graduation test last year. But they kept the writing test.
A higher percentage of African-American and Latino students passed the test this year, narrowing the achievement gap with white students. Cardoza says that’s significant.
“Closing that gap is very important because all students are going to go on from high school into either a career or on to college,” [Dept. of Ed. Spokesperson Matt] Cardoza says, “So, we have to make sure that all of those students are at that proficiency level.”
The Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia released a study showing that 100,000 Georgians depend on MARTA to get to work, a threefold increase over the past five years.
“If MARTA didn’t exist, those 100,000 jobs and the 80,000 they support would likely go away,” said Wes Clarke, one of the UGA researchers who prepared the study onMARTA’s economic role. “It shows the magnitude of the impact of being able to get people to jobs by way of a transit system.”
The availability of public transit has played a key role in attracting the 123, 515 jobs around the Perimeter Center in DeKalb County, said Yvonne Williams, president of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts. The CIDs have four rail stations in the area serving medical centers, Perimeter Mall and office parks.
“Most of the major corporations that are here … have chosen the perimeter market for the assets of transit,” she said. “It draws employees from across the region and your high-profile corporations care about that employee footprint. We see it as a major competitive factor.”
I myself am a frequent MARTA rider, especially during the legislative session when it’s simply quicker many mornings than driving 4 miles through Atlanta traffic. Pro-tip for MARTA management: I’d probably spend three to five dollars a day on fancy coffee in the station if you sold it to me. And you could probably extract a couple extra bucks a week by opening pay toilets at the half-way point.
On Tuesday, some Paulding, Douglas and Carroll County voters will go to the polls to vote in the runoff in Senate District 30 between Bill Hembree and Mike Dugan. There will also be a special election between the winner *cough*Hembree*cough* and a
Librarian Libertarian named James Camp on January 8, 2013.
Talk about a 2014 challenge to United States Senator Saxby Chambliss have picked up.
A combination of factors has encouraged some Republicans to openly weigh a challenge. Chambliss has long faced criticism from tea party activists and other hardcore conservatives who dislike his role on the bipartisan Gang of Six, which backed a plan to reduce deficits by changing entitlement programs, make spending cuts and raising tax revenue.
“I don’t think it’s the taxes,” said Debbie Dooley, a Chambliss critic and co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party. “It’s based on that people want a fighter, they don’t want someone to acquiesce to the left.”
Chambliss’ longtime political consultant, Tom Perdue, said several members of Congress have said in the last few months that they would run for Chambliss’ seat if he did not seek re-election. And others indicated they might challenge the incumbent in a primary. Still others, Perdue said, are floating their names as a way of raising campaign cash and don’t intend to mount a real challenge.
Perdue faulted those who criticize Chambliss for working with Democrats.
“Now all of the sudden you’ve got some people, which is certainly their right — they do not think he should be working with Democrats,” Perdue said. “Well, it’s kind of hard to get anything done in Congress if both parties don’t work together.”
The Savannah Chamber of Commerce unveiled its 2013 legislative agenda at an “Eggs and Issues” breakfast yesterday.
Securing harbor deepening funds again topped the list.
But other topics mentioned at the Savannah Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs and Issues breakfast also would require state dollars.
Tybee Island State Representative Ben Watson wants more sand on Tybee beach.
“Tybee beach re-nourishment not only affects the tourism in the Savannah beaches or on Tybee Island,” Watson says. “But it also affects the City of Savannah, our region here and the whole state of Georgia.”
Chamber Chairman Bill Shira said he’d like lawmakers to extend a tax break benefiting jet-maker Gulfstream.
“What this tax exemption does is allow Gulfstream to be more competetive,” Shira says. “What this legislative agenda is meant to do is to extend these benefits for Gulfstream into the future so that we can remain competitive.”
Speaking of Savannah, the city is ranked as the 38th fastest-growing major metropolitan area in the nation.
Over the next five years, Savannah’s population is projected to grow 5 percent, 6,700 new households in total, at an annual rate of 1 percent.
That comes as no surprise to Bill Hubbard, president and CEO of the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce. In fact, he can sum up the area’s growing popularity in two words: baby boomers.
“Savannah’s ability to attract retirees is the fundamental piece that has driven our growth. Most baby boomers have weathered the recession with at least some of their wealth intact and, as they look to retirement, they are realizing that our area is a great place to live,” he said.
“Nearly 80 percent of the U.S. population lives within an hour of the coastline, and this is the most affordable coastline between Myrtle Beach and Jacksonville,” he said, adding that it doesn’t hurt that Savannah is a tourist magnet.
A memorandum of understanding spells out a plan for Kia Motors Manufacturing America to invest $1.6 billion over the next 16 years for expanding its model offerings, including additional tools, equipment and possible building expansions. Kia is asking the Troup County Development Authority to issue $1 billion in bonds and the West Point Development Authority to issue $600 million in bonds for the improvements, and would pay the county development authority $400,000 in compensation and West Point Development Authority up to $650,000.
Governor Nathan Deal lauded the investment:
“Kia has an exceptional track record of growth in our state,” said Deal. “The wave of economic impact created by Kia’s presence in Georgia goes far beyond the 10,000-plus jobs the company and its suppliers have created and will underpin the region’s economy for generations to come. Kia’s continued commitment to our state moves us closer to making Georgia the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business.”
Being from Gwinnett County, I always understood that developers were supposed to send flowers and wine-and-dine government officials, but the Fulton County Development Authority thinks it works the other way. Take a minute to watch the video from Fox5Atlanta about $1100 monthly lunches and absorb the fact that it’s a Republican chairman and mouthpiece telling you that it never occurred to them to ask the price of the free government-provided lobster bisque that magically appeared at their monthly meetings.
More than two-thirds of the applications for disadvantaged business status under a Georgia DOT program included incorrect calculations, according to an audit of the program.
The findings of the audit raise questions about the disadvantaged business certification process GDOT had been using, but it’s not clear how many of the applicants reviewed went on to win contracts.
The “disadvantaged business enterprise” certifications give firms special consideration, since agencies set goals to award a certain percentage of contracts to disadvantaged firms.
The performance review completed earlier this year found GDOT’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity did not accurately calculate business owners’ personal net worth in 27 of the 40 applications reviewed for the audit. The errors included omissions of ownership interest in other companies or the fair market value of stocks and bonds, according to the audit. In some cases, more information would be needed to make a determination.
What’s more, GDOT increased its cap on personal net worth from $750,000 to $1.32 million for airport concessions disadvantaged business enterprise certifications, even before the federal government issued its final rule making the change. The federal change has since been finalized.
The headline of the week comes from the Marietta Daily Journal for this gem: “Speeders, chickens get little love from council members”.
MARIETTA — Speeders and chickens got little support during the Marietta City Council’s committee meetings Monday.
The public safety committee discussed conducting a “Slow Down Marietta Week” after chairman Councilman Anthony Coleman called one street “the Kennestone 500.”
“We’ve been doing some ticketing,” Coleman said about 60 tickets issued in a recent three-day period. “I don’t think that’s (the police department’s) first option, to go back to writing tickets, but it does get people’s attention. I want a proactive approach.”
Coleman said speeders create a secondary public safety problem.
“People are not following the limit and they’re tailgating drivers going the speed limit. It causes a lot of tension,” he said.
Backyard chickens failed to garner support from the judicial and legislative committee, chaired by Councilman Phil Goldstein.
Backyard chicken advocate Kristen Picken, a Marietta resident, spoke to the Council as she did at its Oct. 10 regular meeting.
“I work with a group that wants to get the law changed in the city of Marietta and the county,” she said about the Backyard Chickens Alliance of Cobb County.To
“Amy Pond” is an eight-week old, eight-pound yellow lab mix puppy who was abandoned in a shopping cart in a grocery store parking lot and is available for adoption today from Walton County Animal Services.
This six-month old Shepherd mix is still at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter and is in dire straits now. Three litters of puppies arrived and they’ll be euthanizing to clear room. We have a sponsor who will pay the adoption fee if anyone is willing to foster or adopt.
The Georgia State Patrol reports that 2,527 accidents occurred on Georgia’s roads this weekend with nineteen people dying in wrecks during the period from 6 PM Wednesday through midnight Sunday.
PolitiFact reviewed Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell’s statement that Fulton County Elections had a lower error rate than the national average and found it to be a steaming pile of lies.
“I did some checking on my own to see what are the error rates for elections departments as large as this one. You’re well below the average,” Darnell said during the County Commission’s meeting Nov. 7.
PolitiFact Georgia was curious to determine whether Fulton’s error rates were below average, but we encountered a roadblock.
Darnell said she respects the work of PolitiFact Georgia but wouldn’t discuss anything related to the election department. She complained about biased media coverage on the subject, particularly by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The commissioner did suggest we examine Fulton and compare it with other Georgia counties.
The greatest complaint about Fulton came from people who said they were told their names weren’t on the county’s voter rolls. In such cases, the person is given a provisional ballot and the county then works to verify that person is registered to vote.
According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, 9,575 provisional ballots were cast on Nov. 6 in Fulton. That was more than twice the total of provisional ballots cast in Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties combined, state data show. More than 100 people who tried to vote in Fulton have filed complaints to the state about the Nov. 6 election, the AJC reported.
Fulton elections officials were still printing and delivering supplemental voter lists to precincts hours after the polls opened, the AJC has reported. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp called the situation a “debacle.”
Fulton officials have made some mistakes in recent years administering elections. In 2008, the county sent absentee ballots late to as many as 2,500 voters, the AJC reported at the time. The result: Some voters were unable to cast ballots in that year’s presidential election.
Let’s recap. Fulton Commissioner Emma Darnell said the number of errors by the county’s elections staff was “well below the average.” She declined to provide details to back up her claim. Research shows Fulton was in the middle among U.S. counties of comparable size when it came to provisional ballots rejected in 2008, the last presidential election. That year, twice as many provisional ballots were cast in Fulton than there were in some of Georgia’s largest counties.
From the evidence available, the county’s recent history and the high number of provisional ballots cast in this month’s election, there’s not much evidence to back up Darnell’s claim that Fulton was “well below the average.” We rate her claim False.
I hope this is an issue that the legislature will address in the 2013 Session, and consider whether the Secretary of State’s Office should be able to intervene in elections where a county has a proven record of incompetence, or on an emergency basis when a problem surfaces in a previously well-run election department.
Former Governor Mike Huckabee visited Valdosta and Albany on Saturday, hawking his book, Dear Chandler, Dear Scarlett: A Grandfather’s Thoughts on Faith, Family, and the Things That Matter Most.
Today, Col. Oliver North will follow his footsteps, selling and signing his newest book, a novel called Heroes Proved.North will appear at noon at the Fort Benning Exchange, 9220 Marne Road, Columbus, GA 31905. At 4:30 he will appear at Books-A-Million at 1705-C Norman Drive, Valdosta, GA 311601.
Senator Chambliss promised the people of Georgia he would go to Washington and reform government rather than raise taxes to pay for bigger government. He made that commitment in writing to the people of Georgia.
If he plans to vote for higher taxes to pay for Obama-sized government he should address the people of Georgia and let them know that he plans to break his promise to them.
In February 2011 he wrote an open letter addressed to me when he joined the Gang of Six saying he would not vote for any plan that raised taxes. He would support only tax revenue that resulted from higher growth.
Sen.Chambliss mentions his fear of losing a primary if he breaks his word to Georgians and votes to raise their taxes. History reminds us that when President George H.W. Bush raised taxes in a deal that promised (and did not deliver) spending cuts he was defeated not in the primary, but in the general.
When Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska violated his pledge to the American people, he would’ve won a primary battle. But he withdrew because polling showed he could not win a general election having both lied to his state and raised their taxes.
Perhaps someone should let Norquist know that in Georgia in 2014, the only election that will matter will be the Republican Primary.
Tomorrow, Gwinnett County Chair Charlotte Nash will present the County’s proposed budget for 2013.
“We have spent the last two weeks combing back through the budget and confirming our five-year forecasts,” said Nash, who has played a hand in many county budgets as the government finance manager and county administrator before her election as chairwoman of the Board of Commissioners.
In the past several years, the economy has forced the government to cut expenses, and 2013 will be no different. Nash said the budget was built on the assumption that the county tax digest will drop another 2 percent due to still-declining property values.
“The national economy continues to struggle,” Nash said. “If it slows again, then we will feel that effect here in Gwinnett. The level of uncertainty meant that we had to be very cautious in our cost analysis and revenue projections.”
On top of that, the budget document, which is usually several dozen pages long, will be even longer due to the new accounting methods outlined in the settlement of a three-year-long dispute with local cities.
The settlement, which ensures that residents do not pay county taxes for services that their city government provides, means that county departments will have several pools of funding, all of which have to be analyzed for their tax revenue.
“The implementation of provisions of the consent order for the Service Delivery Strategy dispute with the cities contributed to the complexity and extra work required this year,” Nash said. “Essentially, separate service districts, funds and budgets had to be established for three functions: fire, police and development. Thus, general fund had to be split into four separate funds. The service area and funding structure of each of the new districts are unique, and none of them are countywide. The consent order constrained how services were to be structured and how they were to be funded.”
Commissioners will have just over a month to consider the proposal before a scheduled vote in January. Residents can sound off on the plan at a Dec. 10 hearing. Nash encourages people to view department budget presentations on the county website for more background on the proposal.
“While I would have liked to finalize the proposed budget earlier, it clearly was more important to ensure that it was based on the latest information and soundest analysis possible,” she said.
Kristi Swartz of the AJC has written an article about solar power that does a good job of laying out two of the problems with deploying solar on a large scale in Georgia.
Southern Co. executives say higher electricity prices, tax breaks and other subsidies have created a favorable environment for solar energy to flourish in the Southwest. The region also receives nearly twice as much sunlight as other parts of the country.
“So when we first thought about getting some experience in the renewable sector, we went to where the best resources are, and that’s the desert Southwest,” said Tom Fanning, Southern Co.’s chairman and chief executive officer.
The chief reason Southern has given for not investing more heavily in solar in Georgia and the Southeast is because the region’s electricity prices are low. Developing solar made little business sense because it was too expensive to compete with traditional forms of electricity.
Now the utility wants to add 210 MW of solar to its energy mix, saying improvements in technology, among other things, have led the renewable fuel to drop in price.
Regulators have been reluctant to mandate any use of solar energy, primarily because traditional fuels have been cheaper. What’s more, solar is an intermittent resource.
The Law of Unintended Consequences is apparently still in effect as efforts to stem illegal immigration have bogged down the licensing renewal system for doctors and nurses.
When lawmakers tightened the state’s immigration laws, one provision was to require all licensed professionals to prove citizenship at renewal time.Some medical professionals have had to briefly stop seeing patients due to the new delays in renewal as a result of the law.
Doctor’s licensing must be renewed every two years. This was previously done on a state website, with a few clicks and a renewal payment. Doctors received confirmation of renewal immediately.Now, applicants must submit a notarized affidavit and ID proving citizenship. The state says near a third of doctors are seeing a delay of 10 or more days.
Cars that were flooded in Sandy may make their way to Georgia through insurance sales, auctions, and unscrupulous or ignorant sellers. Be careful.
In coming weeks, the Hall County Sheriff’s Department may come to resemble a scene from “Full Metal Jacket” [language warning at that link] as Sheriff-elect Gerald Crouch encourages deputies to trade jelly donuts for pushups.
“I set my own personal goal to lose that weight and get back in shape, and I still do that to this day,” he said.Now, as Couch readies to take the reins of the sheriff’s office in January, he wants to make fitness a goal for all deputies.“It’s important to citizens that they have a department they can be proud of, and when it becomes obvious to them that there’s no physical standards that exist in a department, public confidence in the agency, and in its leadership, can deteriorate,” he said.
Couch plans to develop a fitness policy starting immediately with a fitness program for new hires, he said.
Couch said for current personnel, he plans to phase in a program over time.
“None of these actions are seen as anything punitive,” he said. “I want to change the lifestyle and the mindset to help the officers be healthier and enjoy their lives more, and perform better for the citizens of the county.”
Almost any morning, about sunrise, it’s not unusual to find a cluster of folks in the parking lot at the Cage Center on the Berry campus. It’s not an early-morning exercise group, but folks who are intrigued by the pair of bald eagles nesting in such an unusual location.
Typically, eagle nests are found next to a stream or lake. The nest at Berry is adjacent to a parking lot. It’s probably less than a mile away from the Oostanaula River and maybe just a little further to the old Florida Rock quarry off Redmond Circle. It’s a tad further to the Lavender Mountain reservoir and about seven miles, as the eagle flies, from the lakes at the Rocky Mountain hydroelectric plant in Texas Valley.Ozier calls Northwest Georgia the last frontier for bald eagle growth in Georgia.
“We are seeing more growth in the north, and maybe it’s just as other areas fill up they’re looking to expand into some place they may not have gone 10 years ago.”Other bald eagles on Lake Allatoona and Weiss Lake have produced young around Christmas. Allowing for the 35-day incubation period, that means if the Berry pair is successful, the female should drops eggs any day now.
The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus plans to join a lawsuit that seeks to unravel the charter school amendment passed by voters on Nov. 6.
State Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur), chairman of the caucus, said language in the ballot question was “intentionally deceptive.”
He has asked state and federal officials to investigate what he’s calling ballot fraud.
“Ever since the word has come out about our legal effort to turn this back, I have received countless e-mails from people across the state saying how betrayed they felt after learning what they voted for,” Jones said.
Jones said the amendment was really about creating a “gold mine” for people who want to profit from Georgia’s tax dollars.
“This had nothing to do with student achievement, nothing to do with local control,” he said. “It was all about this seven-member commission that was formed by the governor who makes three of the seven appointments on the board.”
A Dalton teacher and an Atlanta pastor filed a lawsuit over the amendment question in Fulton County Superior Court on Oct. 26.
The lawsuit names Gov. Nathan Deal along with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
This beautiful, blue-eyed, white husky-mix is described as sweet and is available from the Murray County Animal Shelter in Chatsworth. Without a rescue or adoption, he will be euthanized on Friday in the pre-dawn hours.
The United States Supreme Court will hear a challenge to parts of the Voting Rights Act that affect states that had a history of vote discrimination when the act was passed; this includes Georgia.
The challenge to Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was launched two years ago, and the court added it to its docket just days after an energized minority electorate played a critical role in the reelection of President Obama, the nation’s first African American president.
The justices said they would decide whether Congress exceeded its authority in 2006 when it reauthorized a requirement that states and localities with a history of discrimination, most of them in the South, receive federal approval before making any changes to their voting laws.
Three years ago, the court expressed concern about subjecting some states to stricter standards than others using a formula developed decades ago. But the justices sidestepped the constitutional question and found a narrow way to decide that case.
Georgia State House Republicans re-elected their leadership team yesterday, with Speaker David Ralston, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, Majority Whip Ed Lindsey, Vice Chair Matt Ramsey, and Secretary Allen Peake unopposed and Caucus Chair Donna Sheldon beating back an intramural challenge from Rep. Delvis Dutton.
The Democratic Caucus reelected everyone but Rep. Brian Thomas, who was beaten by Rep. Virgil Fludd.
Later this week, Georgia Senate Republicans will gather at Little Ocmulgee State Park for a
group hug caucus meeting. Pro-tip to anyone attending: do not accept any offers of an “after dark swamp tour.”Continue Reading..
This young lab mix puppy is about 12 weeks old and the volunteers at Murray County Animal Shelter says he’s sweet, friendly, gets along with other dogs and loves people. He needs to be rescued ASAP or he will be euthanized on Friday morning. Transportation to Atlanta is available.
Angels Among Us Rescue has foster care lined up for these Golden mix puppies, and is trying to raise $1000 for their vetting to ensure they can save them. Please consider making a donation to Angels Among Us Rescue today and put “GaPundit – Golden Puppies” in the online donation form.
Villa Rica veterinarian Stuart “Doc Win” Burnett is doing his part to reduce euthanasia of dogs and cats.
His passion for animals and his willingness to serve the community has led to the formation of two new endeavors meant to keep dogs and cats from being put to sleep and providing affordable veterinarian services for those who can’t afford it.
The American Veterinary Animal Welfare Foundation was launched last year as a way to rescue animals in local shelters that would otherwise be euthanized, and to help offset some of the free veterinary care he and his staff often provide.
“We are rescuing dogs off death row at the shelters,” said Deborah York, president of the Animal Welfare Foundation. “We’re bringing them in, vetting them and finding them homes.”
The non-profit foundation relies entirely on donations. Since receiving its rescue license in May, nearly 100 pets have been rescued by the foundation. Though the foundation rescues animals it is not a drop-off location for people who simply don’t want their animals.
Once a month, the foundation has a booth at PetSmart in Douglasville where it offers animals for adoption, and all the animals are on display at Petfinder.com. The cost of adoption is $150 for males and $200 for females, which covers an animal being fully vetted, microchipped and spayed/neutered.
Besides donated funds, the foundation has set up a thrift store at its previous clinic building across from its current location on Thomas Dorsey Drive — once a month items are sold and the money goes to pet rescue. Items to be sold can be donated by contacting Atlanta West Veterinary Hospital.
Burnett and his staff provide about 15 to 20 hours a week of what they refer to as “community service,” which is veterinary care for those who can’t afford to pay. Donations to the foundation also will go toward helping fund some of these pro bono services.
“We’re trying to serve the community and make a living too,” Burnett said.
Burnett and fellow veterinarian Steve Hathcock will launch the Bay Springs Clinic on Nov. 13, which will provide affordable spay/neuter procedures and other smaller veterinary services. The clinic will be located behind Vaughn Tile on Highway 61 North.
Anyone seeking more information about the clinic or wanting to donate to the foundation can contact Atlanta West at 770-459-2253, email email@example.com or visit the website at www.americanveterinarywelfarefoundation.com.
Over the weekend, Early and Advance voting surpassed the one million mark, with 99,979 votes being cast according to the latest absentee voter file from the Secretary of State’s office. Of the early/advance voters on Saturday for whom the SOS reported a “Last Party Primary,” 54% had last voted in a Republican Primary and 46% in a Democratic Primary.
WSB reported Friday that Gwinnett County had its longest waits of the election.
Lines were up to two-and-a-half hours long between 8:30am and noon at the main elections office in Lawrenceville.Continue Reading..
One of these little seven-week old pups found a home yesterday with a GaPundit.com reader and I couldn’t be happier. Another reader’s family stepped up and volunteered to foster the other two if enough money can be raised through a rescue organization to pay for their vetting, which will cost $400. If everyone who has written me about how much they enjoy seeing the adoptable dogs or asking how they can help will give $50, $20, or even $5 today, we can save the remaining puppies. They must be saved by Thursday night or they’ll be euthanized on Friday before dawn. Please click here and go to Angels Among Us Rescue’s webpage and donate today with a credit or debit card or PayPal account. When making your donation, please put “GaPundit – Murray County Puppies” in the purpose field.
This boxer puppy will qualify for the “Black Friday Sale” discounted $30 adoption fee on Friday at Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. She’s a friendly little puppy and has five brothers and sisters in the shelter with her, who were found stray and are available for adoption today.
Finally, we bring you one of our favorite kind of dog, a basset hound “low rider” mix. Meet Binkie, a Pit Bull-Basset Hound mix.
Binkie is a spayed female, approximately 2 years old and just over 26 pounds of awesome. She is available for adoption tomorrow from Walton County Animal Services.
Senator Vincent Fort doesn’t want voters to be armed in exchange for voting and has filed a complaint with the Secretary of State’s office alleging that a Cobb business offering a chance to win a Browning rifle or Glock violates Georgia law that prohibits giving people something of value for voting.
Fort says the promotion violates state law prohibiting anyone from offering money or gifts in exchange for voting or registering to vote.
“I sent a letter to the secretary of state this morning, asking him to look into it and put a stop to the raffle,” Fort said. “These billboards are prominently positioned all over the metro area, and I’m surprised the secretary of state didn’t intervene earlier.”
Four years ago, that office put a quick stop to shops offering free coffee and doughnuts to those showing proof that they voted, he said.
Grover is a little 12.4 pound, 3-4 month old puppy who is available for adoption beginning today at Walton County Animal Services.
Jackson is a one-year old, 46 pound male, neutered Retriever mix, who is housebroken and said to be a great indoor dog. He is available for adoption immediately from Walton County Animal Services. As an owner turn-in, he’ll be one of the first euthanized.
Wendy is a beautiful dark-yellow or light-brown retriever mix who is 5-6 months old and 35 pounds who is expected to grow a bit. Super cuddly and sweet and available for adoption beginning Thursday from Walton County Animal Shelter.
These six-month old lab boys will be euthanized before dawn on Friday without a rescue. They are available for local rescue or out-of-state rescue with local foster only from Chatsworth Animal Shelter in Murray County. The boys get along great together. If you’re interested in fostering them, email us and we’ll try to hook you up with a rescue group who will work with you to get them out.
This 7-pound, nine week old puppy will also be euthanized before dawn on Friday unless she is rescued. She loves people and other dogs. She is available today from Chatsworth Animal Shelter in Murray County. The adoption fee is $115 and includes neutering, vaccinations, and heartworm treatment and a donor has offered to pay half the adoption fee for any reader who saves this puppy.
Not really politics, so file under “Georgians doing good.” Cook County High School students have elected their friend Misty Triggs to the homecoming court, with Misty receiving the highest vote total.
14-year-old Misty Triggs was born with cerebral palsy and has never been able to walk. She says sometimes it’s hard to feel like a regular teenager because she’s confined to a wheel chair.
“I can’t walk like the other kids, and sometimes its hard for me to be able to accept that. It’s hard for me because I want to be normal but I know I’m not,” said Misty.
But her freshman class sees her as a normal teenager like them. And they’ve voted Misty to represent the class in the homecoming court this Friday.
“Misty is like any of us, she acts the same she’s born the same, just because of a few things doesn’t make any difference,” said Elizabeth Mccumber, Misty’s friend.
Her Dad says it’s incredible to see how many students love Misty and her positive outlook on life. He says moving to south Georgia has made all the difference.
“That was one of the things I was really worried about when we moved out here and she started here, and its just been insane. It’s a lot different than California because I don’t believe this would have ever happened in California,” said father Jeff Triggs.
Advance voting in person is now open for the November 6th General Election all across Georgia. Go to Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s website and look up your county for information on where and when you can vote early in person.
In Cobb County yesterday, lines were as long as 100 people, and some voters waited an hour-and-a-half to vote in the first day of advance voting.
Janine Eveler, the county’s director of elections, said 1,371 of people turned out to vote early Monday. As of 5 p.m., 1,226 people had voted, but the 145 people standing in line were allowed to cast their ballots.
Compared to the first day of early voting in the 2008 presidential election, 1,049 people, or 322 fewer people, voted, but she said the wait wasn’t unusual.
The longest wait she heard on Monday was about two hours and 15 minutes.
“The shortest wait was when it was still raining between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.,” Eveler said. “At 9:30 a.m. it was about 45 to 50 minutes (waiting in line), but people were waiting at 7 a.m. for us to open at 8 a.m.”
Eveler also said opening additional polling locations will help relieve the wait at the Cobb Civic Center Oct. 25 and at nine other polling places the week of Oct. 29.
She reminded voters to “be patient, bring a small chair or stool if you like, a water bottle, or a book to pass the time.
“Going by what we saw in 2008, there should be shorter lines on Election Day than during early voting because we’ll have 153 locations open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The only significant wait times on Election Day in 2008 were before 10 a.m.,” she said.
In Gwinnett County, lines up to one hundred voters snaked out the door and down the sidewalk at the County Board of Elections.
At the Gwinnett County Board of Registration and Elections, Elections Director Lynn Ledford said more than 800 people had voted by lunch time — more than officials expected for the entire day — and she expected nearly 2,000 to vote by the end of the day. Each county in Georgia has at least one early voting location. Voters are required to show one of the required forms of photo identification, such as a driver’s license or a valid U.S. passport.
Early voting runs through Nov. 2, and Oct. 27 will be the only Saturday that voting sites will be open in Gwinnett.
Ledford said it’s difficult to compare this presidential election with 2008 because four years ago early voting began 45 days before, while this time it’s 21 days.
“But I can tell you this is the most we’ve ever had on the first day of early voting,” Ledford said. “Everybody is really excited about it.”
Most people in line at the voting site on Grayson Highway said they stood in line 30 minutes to 45 minutes, but Ledford said around lunctime the wait time swelled to about an hour and 15 minutes.
“I feel like it’s a very, very key election, and I want to make sure I get out here,” said David Knight of Grayson.
Knight said he prefers early voting because during the 2008 election, the wait time on Election Day at his precinct was more than two hours.
Snellville resident John E. Head, Jr., said this is the second straight election he’s participated in early voting, because Head said it’s quicker.
DeKalb County saw more than 2700 voters yesterday, according to the AJC.
Four years ago, during the last presidential election, more than 2 million Georgia voters — or 53 percent of all those who voted — cast ballots before Election Day, either in person or by mail. Officials said the heavy early turnout in 2008 prevented longer lines at the polls on Election Day.
This year, according to a poll conducted last week for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, nearly 40 percent of likely Georgia voters said they plan to cast a ballot during early voting, compared with 54 percent who plan to wait until Election Day.
Any voter registered in Georgia may participate in early voting.
Each county or municipality has at least one early-voting site open, where ballots can be cast before Election Day. Voters just need to show up, making sure they have one of the required forms of photo identification, such as a driver’s license or valid U.S. passport.
Closer to Nov. 6, counties especially in metro Atlanta will increase their number of early-voting sites and even extend hours.
In addition, Muscogee County voters will have opportunities to vote early on Saturdays at the Columbus Public Library. Those days are October 20th and October 27th from 10:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Locations to advance vote:
100 10th Street
M-F, 8:30 a.m. -5:00 p.m.
Columbus Baptist Association
3679 Steam Mill Road
M – F (closed Thurs. Oct. 18), 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
North Highland Assembly of God
7300 Whittlesey Blvd
M – F (closed Wed. Oct. 31) 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Columbus Public Library
3000 Macon Road
M – Th, 10:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Fri., 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Sat., October 20th and 27th, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Bibb County voters faced a wait between 30 and 60 minutes in early voting yesterday.
People lined up outside of the Macon-Bibb Board of Elections to make sure their voices are heard.
“I waited about 30 minutes,” said first time voter Mary, “and it wasn’t too bad of a wait.”
The Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections Executive Director Elaine Carr said the anticipation of the presidential election is leading to longer lines. She projects at least 70% of the county will vote this year and it’s only going to get worse.
“Especially that last week of early voting. People wait and that’s went lines are gonna be the longest,” Carr said.
For those trying to bypass the lines, Carr suggests to show up early, be prepared and consider a change of location.
“Try to make sure you have time to go to your precinct on election day,” Carr said.
Whether Republican, Democrat or anything in between, voters seemed excited to play a part in picking the next president of the United States.”
“We have the advantage of choosing the next president” said Betty Carlos,“making social changes that need to be made.”
Carr said 1,056 people voted on the first day of early voting. In Bibb County, people can vote in advance at the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections at 2445 Pio Nono Avenue. The polls are open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday voting is October 27.
Athens-Clarke County has more registered voters this year than in 2008 and early voting lines were out the door.
[E]lections chief Gail Schrader doesn’t expect the rush to slow soon.
“It’s been crazy since we opened the doors. Good crazy,” said Schrader, supervisor of elections and voter registration for Athens-Clarke County.
Schrader said she expects about 45,000 people to vote this year in Athens-Clarke County, and she believes about half of that number will cast ballots before Election Day. On the first day alone, 807 ballots were cast, she said.
“I think every day is going to be busy. I really think it’s just going to grow,” Schrader said.
Carroll County saw 755 advance voters on the first day, including some who were waiting at the door when it opened.
Candidates in the Special Republican Primary Election for Senate District 30 spoke to the Carroll, Douglas, and Paulding County farm bureaus about their support for agriculture.
Seeking the Senate seat formerly held by Bill Hamrick, a Carrollton Republican, in the Nov. 6 special Republican primary are Mike Dugan, a Carrollton general contractor and former military officer; former House Rep. Bill Hembree, a Winston insurance agent; Jim Naughton, a Carrollton business consultant; and Glenn Richardson, a Hiram attorney and former speaker of the Georgia House.
James Camp, a Libertarian candidate from Temple and an information technician, is not running in the Nov. 6 race. However, he qualified to run in the Jan. 8 special general election and will face the winner of the Nov. 6 Republican primary.
Hamrick resigned last month to accept a position as a Superior Court judge in the Coweta Judicial Circuit.
“Farming is absolutely the most important thing in this district,” Hembree said. “It’s the number one industry in Georgia and also number one in District 30. We have to do everything we can to protect the farmer, because we know the value of the farm. The farmer feeds and clothes our families, so we have to do everything we can to assure that continues. We want Georgia’s number one industry to be agriculture. As your state senator, I’ll try every day to make sure it stays that way.”
Richardson agreed that agriculture is the number one industry and said timber is the number one component of the agricultural industry.
“The question is what we can do to promote agriculture,” he said. “I will tell you what continues to be a problem. We see people forced from their farms because they can’t pay the taxes. We continue to have tax assessors who do everything they can to make it difficult for farmers. We have to quit doing that. We have to think of ways to move things to market. We should end property taxes. We should have never taxed property. Farmers shouldn’t have to think about selling their land to pay their taxes if their crops don’t come in.”
Hembree called the right to own property “one of the fundamental American rights.” He cited a Henry County case in which the Legislature acted to prevent a city from taking over property.
“We had to go in and change the law,” Hembree said. “Again, it’s a fundamental right that everybody should have to own their own property and do with it the best they see.”
Hembree said he has worked closely with the Farm Bureau on the issues of taxes and difficulties of operating a farm.
“We passed House Bill 386, which is an expansion of the sales tax exemption on agriculture,” he said. “What it does is to broaden the tax exemption for all agricultural industry, on equipment, energy use and farm tools. We worked closely with the Farm Bureau for two years to get the measure passed and was finally successful. It says to the farmers that we want to help you do what you do best and that is farm.”
Richardson called private property “sacrosanct” and said owners should be able to do what they want with their property, within zoning regulations. However, he said, there’s often conflicts.
“As more and more people have moved into areas and intruded on agricultural property, they have started complaining about things that happen on a farm,” he said. “We should never let zoning change the use of a farm for agriculture purposes.”
Richardson said another intrusion into farm use is when the Georgia Environmental Protection Division starts doing indirectly what no local government will do directly.
“They start picking and nitpicking and we have to stop that,” he said. “You can’t run a farm without having fuel and you can’t run a farm without animals doing what animals do. While you have to have some restrictions, you have to be reasonable.”
Speaking on the charter school amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot, Hembree said he supports it.
“I supported House Resolution 1162 which set up the charter school amendment,” Hembree said. “I would further like to say that no local funds can be used for charter schools. No reduction in state funding to local schools will take place.”
He noted that local systems can create charter schools.
“There will be a review process before submitting to the state,” he said. “The state will make sure there is checks and balances. I believe in public schools. My three sons are in public schools, but I also believe in private schools and charter schools. On size doesn’t fit all.”
Richardson spoke in favor of the charter amendment as a way of giving control to the people.
“A good thing about the charter amendment is people get to decide,” he said. “Each of you get to decide, you have one vote, just like me. When you go to the polls, you get to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ I intend to vote yes. Go inform yourself.”
Richardson said since the graduation rate is so low, we should be trying something different.
“Isn’t it time we try something with a choice?” he asked. “The charter school is one weapon in an arsenal of education that gives parents choices. I know schools in Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties do good jobs. They can do better. This is not an attempt to attack our schools. It’s an attempt to give moms and dads a chance to see Johnny in the ninth grade go on to graduate.”
Richardson said the measure will let parents decide when their kids are failing, some at a 40 percent rate, to have a choice.
“This is a good time to try,” he said. “If you don’t like it, we can always change it again. That’s what government has to do, always be changing. I’m ready to give a choice.”
The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer profiles Senator Ed Harbison (D) and his Republican opponent, David Brown.
If re-elected to the Senate, Harbison said, he’ll work with other House members to consider a way to help veterans relocating to the Columbus area after retiring. Veterans aren’t taxed on income by the state of Alabama, but they are in Georgia.
“I think to put us on an even keel with the state of Alabama we need to make sure we give them some kind of tax credit to make sure they are not burdened with something in Georgia that they are getting a break on in Alabama,” Harbison said.
A military exemption was in place for veterans, but it was thrown out in the court because all federal employees in the state weren’t included.
“Since that time, we have not been able to put the military in this exceptional category as opposed to putting all the federal retirees in the same category,” he said. “We are trying to determine if we can’t do both. Ideally, it would be an attraction to do both of those.”
The American system was set up for people who want to do well. If elected, Brown said he would uphold those traditional values that made America great.
“I also have a very strong faith,” Brown said. “You can count on me to stand up for traditional values that were there for the founding, helped encourage growth and sustained it. I’m not out to reinvent the government, not out to reinvent the way that system works. I’m saying the system was good.”