Category: Campaign Announcements

14
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections News for May 14, 2012

“54312” is a one-year old, 57# male dog who is said to be good with children and other dogs. He has been in the Cobb County Animal Shelter since being dropped off by his former family on Friday and is available for adoption now. Dog and puppy adoptions cost $110 and include vaccinations, heartworm testing and treatment and spay/neuter/

To adopt him or any other animal from Cobb County, call Cobb County Animal Shelter, at (770) 499-4136 for more information or visit at 1060 Al Bishop Drive Marietta, Georgia 30008, and be sure to have the animal’s number available.

We will be featuring animals from Cobb County all week as they prepare for their adopt-a-thon on Saturday, May 19th from 10 AM to 4 PM. Visit Friends of Shelter Animals for Cobb County on Facebook for more adoptable dogs.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Senator George Hooks, Democrat of Americus, Georgia

Senator George Hooks (D-Americus), one of the longest-serving members of the State Senate, will not run for reelection. In 22 years in the Senate, after being first elected to that body in 1990, Hooks served ten years as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee as Georgia achieved a AAA Bond Rating, the highest in the nation. The Americus Times-Recorder has a good local perspective on what his service has meant to his district through the years.

President Obama returns to Atlanta on June 26th to hoover up all the Democratic campaign cash for a series of fundraisers. No word on whether Democratic Party of Georgia Political Director Rashad Richey will receive security clearance for the visit.

Republican blogger Andre Walker has filed a response to Richey’s lawsuit that alleges Walker libeled him when he published true facts about Richey’s criminal background. The main defense asserted by Walker is that the assertions were either true, or were protected political opinions.

R.J. Morris is running against incumbent Arthur Ferdinand for Fulton County Tax Commissioner, the highest-paid state office, which earned the incumbent $347,000 last year. Cherokee County Tax Commissioner Sonya Little faces challenges from Kenny Phelps and Wade Wilkie.

Raymond Gunnin, who has served as Cherokee County Fire Chief will run for County Commission Post 2 against incumbent Jim Hubbard in the Republican Primary.

Former State Rep. Clint Smith, who is running for State House District 9, held a successful fundraiser with special guest Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, who gave an interesting talk on their service together in a Republican minority under former Speaker Tom Murphy. You can watch a biographical video of Clint Smith here.

On Friday, May 18th, Govenror Nathan Deal will speak at the kickoff for the Special Olympics on the Washington Street steps of the Georgia State Capitol.

Rumor has it that State Rep. Debbie Buckner (D-Junction City) has two potential primary opponents.

Whitfield County Coroner Bobbie Dixon is running for reelection as a Democrat.

Common Cause of Georgia and Jim Walls of AtlantaUnfiltered are hosting an event on the Georgia Transparency Project on Monday, May 14, 2012 at PeopleTV, located at 190 14th Street in Atlanta. A reception runs from 6 to 6:45 PM, followed by taping.

The Paulding County Republican Women’s Club will sponsor a debate among the Georgia District 31 Senate Candidates on June 5, 2012 at 7:00 PM in the Becky and Hal Echols Room at the Paulding County Chamber of Commerce Building located at 455 Jimmy Campbell Parkway, Dallas, Georgia. AJC Political Insider, Jim Galloway, will moderate. The announced candidates are Senator Bill Heath (I), Bill Carruth, former Paulding County Commission Chair, and Jason Rogers, chief investigator for the Cobb County Solicitor General. The debate is open to the public and everyone is welcome to attend.

Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton will debate challengers Lauren McDonald and Duane Piper at 7 PM tonight in the county administration building, in an event sponsored by the Forsyth County Tea Party Patriots Alliance. The next debate on May 24th will feature candidates in the Ninth Congressional District.

The Greater Columbia County Republican Women and the Columbia County Republican Party are holding a forum for candidates in the Twelfth Congressional District on June 30th at 10 AM at the library in Evans, with Phil Kent moderating. That’s the first time “Phil Kent” and any form of the word “moderate” have appeared in the same sentence.

The Augusta Chronicle has a review of the history of the Twelfth Congressional District.

Most of our other congressional districts date back more than a century and a half. The 2nd and 3rd, like the 1st, were present at the creation of the Republic.

Others got added — according to the constitutional formula — as Georgia’s population grew.

Not until 1913 did that growth spawn the 12th, which then elected Hughes, a Twiggs County farmer. Only the 13th, created in 2002, and the 14th, born in 2010, have shorter histories.

[A]fter the 1930 census, we lost the 12th — and the 11th, too.

Renewed Peach State population growth led to the resurrection of the 11th — which used to include part of Savannah — in 1993. Anyone remember Cynthia McKinney? Oh, well; forget I asked.

It took until the 2000 census for the numbers to revive the 12th.

The Forsyth News has more on the challenge of Sen. Jack Murphy in District 27 by local businessman and tea party activist Steve Voshall in the Republican Primary.

Voshall said his disappointment with Murphy is what inspired him to run for office.

“He was in the position on the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee to have helped the [bank failure] situation and instead that didn’t happen,” he said. “I think the people in this county are seeing through that now,” he said.

“I’ve had a great deal of interested people who contacted me and asked me to consider running … I looked into it, put a lot of thought into it, did a lot of research on Jack and I didn’t like the things I saw and I heard.”

Murphy said he will be running on his experience in the state legislature, adding he will “look forward to any debates that we may have and will be glad to put my record up for what I’ve done for the county and the state over the past 10 years.”

Tommy Hunter will campaign as a Republican for Gwinnett County Commission District Three against incumbent Mike Beaudreau, in what is shaping up to be a “clown car primary.”

“This is a wonderful district that I have loved my entire life, it deserves a County Commissioner who has an open-door policy toward constituents,” the Republican said in a press release. “I will offer that open door if I am fortunate enough to serve you in this office. I will not forget who my boss is when elected, which are the residents of District 3.”

State Rep. Rick Jasperse has announced his campaign for reelection in the Republican Primary to continue representing Pickens County and parts of Bartow and Gordon counties.

State Rep. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) also will seek reelection.

Carrollton businessman Marty Smith will challenge incumbent Carroll County Chairman Bill Chappell in the Republican primary.

The Macon Telegraph editorial board writes that race-based redistricting, and a failure to communicate combine to make redistricting an explosive mixture.

There is a dirty little process called reapportionment that occurs every decade when the latest census statistics are released. The process is a raw display of power politics. While the framers of our Constitution invented this exercise to insure adequate representation for every American, it has been bastardized to decide which party will do the representing. When Democrats hold the wheels of power it is their prime directive to draw district lines to make sure they win and Republicans lose. Same thing happens if Republicans hold power.

The Savannah Morning News editorial board is declaring war on four South Carolina legislators whose actions allegedly threatened the future development of Port Jasper.

Here are the names of four area lawmakers who recently supported a bill that would have killed the proposed Jasper port on South Carolina’s side of the river.

Voters should make note of this gang of four:

• State Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton.

• State Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head Island.

• State Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort.

• State Rep. Curtis Brantley, D-Ridgeland.

Last week, these port killers voted for a bill that would have essentially shut down the Jasper Ocean Terminal Board. That’s the board of appointees from South Carolina and Georgia that has been diligently working for several years to make the Jasper port a reality and bring much-needed jobs to one of the poorest areas of the Palmetto State.

Instead, this quartet supported a bill that would have put South Carolina’s Jasper appointees under the thumb of the Savannah River Maritime Commission. That’s a separate S.C. panel that’s trying to kill Savannah’s port deepening project, at the behest of backers of Charleston’s port.

With four “friends” like these, the Jasper port doesn’t need enemies.

Dueling editorials

This weekend’s AJC brought dueling editorials on ethics and T-SPLOST.

Jet Toney, a long-time professional lobbyist and President of the Georgia Professional Lobbyists Association traces Georgia’s establishment to lobbying by James Edward Oglethorpe of England’s King James II, and argues that professional lobbyists play an important role in the running of the state legislature.

Georgia state lawmakers depend on a limited number of research staff and committee aides. Professional lobbyists educate officials and staff with information, expertise and perspective that is not always readily available.

Lobbyists also serve as filters of new ideas, pointing to flaws and unintended consequences.

The Founding Fathers made quite clear in the U.S. Constitution that freedom of speech and the right to seek redress from the government are protected.

All citizens should embrace these rights to advocate for his/her beliefs and values. If they do, the role and impact of professional lobbyists will diminish.

Until then, lobbyists will continue to serve as primary participants in public policy discussions, whether it is over a plate of barbecue in the legislator’s hometown or in the starkly clinical setting of a government building.

Toney questions whether a gift ban or limit will improve the results of the legislative process.

Before this is seriously considered, one should look to states where legislators are prohibited from receiving any gift or entertainment, even a cup of coffee.

Are the laws passed in those states more effective than in Georgia? Do the legislators there make better decisions because they’ve interacted less socially with professional policy advocates?

An opposing viewpoint is presented by Don McAdam, who argues that lobbyist gifts to legislators create a perception of conflicts of interest that are damaging to our state government, even in the absence of actual wrongdoing.

This mere perception of a conflict is doing great damage to the integrity of our legislative process. It is maddening to endure the denials of our state’s political leaders. This is why we must toughen lobbying and campaign finance laws. We should have every confidence that laws are considered based on our best interest.

As it is, there are substantial questions regarding the priorities and policies considered by theLegislature, but its leaders refuse to acknowledge that anything is wrong. Unfortunately, their corruption may be correctable only through removal from office.

McAdam points to tax reform that does away with the yearly ad valorem in favor of a sales tax that is called a title transfer fee as an example of what goes wrong when lobbyists wield influence.

[D]id citizens in mass contact their legislators to petition for a tax that would include private car sales? No legislators said that was the case. Although many Georgians cheered the end of the ad valorem tax, questions remain about the influence of lobbyist gifts on the swap that replaced that tax with a broader-based fee.

The fact that auto dealers lobbied for a tax on car sales between individuals and greased the axle of passage with $24,000 in campaign contributions should have prompted lawmakers to pull the emergency brake.

Legislators should have rejected the gifts and campaign contributions. But the “relationship” between auto dealers and our legislators has been cultivated over many years. Legislators and dealers both benefit. The former receive meals, sporting event tickets and election funds, and the latter get favorable treatment.

Of course, that’s not how our legislators see it. Said Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers: “Overall, I know of no impact that any donations had on the tax reform measure.” Most of us don’t believe that, and for good reason. We were not clamoring for this new fee; only auto dealers were.

Kari Storla is a student at Georgia State who writes at the Common Cause Georgia blog, and raises an insightful point.

Think of it this way: Let’s say you’re a college student and you go to the same meeting every week for free food. Eventually, odds are you’re going to start talking to somebody. Maybe you’ll go to a volunteer event or help out with something else because people are starting to recognize you as a regular. If you don’t help them out, you’re not getting any more food and it’s back to ramen. You make a few friends. You agree to pass out flyers and you go to social events because there’s even more free food and free tickets to a concert and what kind of idiot is going to pass that up? And then all of a sudden you’re standing in front of your class, making an announcement promoting the group or organizing a campus rally.

That’s sort of what it would be like to be a legislator dealing with lobbyists. It’s not that you’re the Big Bad Legislator who’s morally corrupt, like a two-dimensional villain in a kid’s cartoon; it’s that you’ve formed relationships. It’s not the one lunch here or there that’s a problem, it’s the months or years worth of lunches that we’re concerned about.

Maybe we shouldn’t even say that legislators are being “bought.” Legislators aren’t commodities to be bought and sold at auction to the highest bidder. They’re people who can make their own decisions. But like all people, they can be influenced. So can legislators be influenced for a lunch? I’d have to see some research on that, but my guess would be it depends on a whole bunch of different factors.

PeachTEAParty suggests that citizens’ failure to actually read up on lobbyist expenditures  is part of the reason lobbyists wield the influence many think they do.

Ever wondered why things never quite go the way you EXPECT at the capitol? Its because the public rarely INSPECTS what actually moves legislation. WHO PAID YOUR LOCAL LAWMAKER”S LUNCH? Find out!!

The Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club’s director argues that T-SPLOST does not include enough transit and remains mired in an outmoded vision for transportation.

There is good reason for cities to embrace transit. It’s increasingly clear that the workforce of the 21st century desires walkable urban living instead of being forced to drive everywhere. One recent study found that from 2001 to 2009, the number of miles driven by young Americans (age 16-31) fell 23 percent, while miles traveled on transit increased 40 percent and bicycle trips increased 24 percent. Georgia needs to attract these workers in order to attract their 21st century jobs.

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s proposed response to this national trend — the July 31 T-SPLOST — remains stuck in the past. While the tax would fund initial segments of some popular transit projects like the Beltline, every new track-mile of light rail built would be matched by 16 lane-miles of road expansion — enough asphalt to cover Turner Field more than 200 times. Despite talk of the tax “transforming” metro Atlanta, in reality this plan is largely a business-as-usual approach.

The campaign manager for Citizens for Transportation Mobility writes

Of course, we can’t fix our transportation woes for free. But as opposed to a punitive “parking tax” or a brand new “multimodal gas tax,” a one-penny sales levy actually helps offset the fuel we waste and valuable time we lose stuck in traffic. That “congestion tax” costs the average metro commuter $924 a year. The one-penny sales levy can reduce the congestion tax over time — and most consumers won’t come close to spending $924 in additional sales tax (that would require annually buying $92,400 worth of stuff).

As for the Sierra Club’s criticism that the project list is a “hodge-podge of conflicting priorities,” we’re proud that it doesn’t reflect the priorities of one group with one agenda. Instead, it reflects the voices of more than 200,000 people who participated in compiling the project list — some of whom wanted more roads and others who wanted greater mobility through transit. The project list reflects the needs of the people of metro Atlanta.

Tea Party Patriots oppose T-SPLOST because they believe it will create a large new bureaucracy that takes local control from counties and invests in transit projects that will have a low return on investment.

T-SPLOST… will be the largest tax increase in Georgia history if it passes all regions. The T-SPLOST also creates a regional mass transit entity that will oversee mass transit in each region, instead of leaving that to the counties.  The T-SPLOST will take local control over transportation projects from counties and give it to a region.

The Metro Atlanta T-SPLOST is just an expansion of MARTA in counties that have already voted it down years ago.  85% of the tax dollars will go in a regional “pot” that is distributed to projects for the good of the region..

We don’t have an issue with mass transit itself. We have an issue with its funding mechanism. Mass transit is very heavily subsidized by the tax payer and further expansion of an entity that is hemorrhaging red ink is fiscally irresponsible. Only 5 – 10 % of the taxpayers in the Metro-Atlanta area ride mass transit, yet the other 90-95% of the taxpayers are being asked to pay for it.

Ends & Pieces

Cherokee County foreclosures are up for May, after a decline in April.

Dalton has a thriving railfan community and celebrated National Train Day on Saturday.

Charlie Daniels and Travis Tritt will play July 19 at the Lady Antebellum Pavilion inside Evans Towne Center Park, with tickets on sale now.

Harold’s Barbecue has fans as far as Athens.

But y’all! Harold’s can’t be allowed to close. They do barbecue right.

They offer succulent pork, slow-cooked for hours, along with ribs and Brunswick stew that I easily deem fit to eat — and I don’t endorse many folks’ Brunswick stew.

The atmosphere at Harold’s is what the atmosphere should be at an authentic barbecue place — especially one in a big city.

By that I mean that it is unpretentious. They don’t put on airs.

They serve white bread with their pork, and blue-collar workers and men in $500 suits sit elbow to elbow.

9
May

Georgia Republican Political News for May 9, 2012

“Ludwig” is a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Basset Hound, who is one year old and will be available for adoption through Angels Among Us Rescue after a short quarantine and vetting period. He is very friendly and great with children and has worked with special needs kids in a program through the shelter where he was an inmate. Angels Rescue spends about $150 per dog for vetting and is asking for online donations and foster homes.

Real ID Act requires proof of identity for driver’s license

Beginning July 1, 2012, Georgians seeking or renewing a driver’s license will have to present additional evidence of their identity and immigration status under Georgia’s Secure ID implementation of the Federal Real ID program.

“This program will give Georgians the most secure IDs we’ve ever issued in this state,” said Deal. “It is our duty to protect our residents’ identities to the best of our ability.”

The new documentation requirements mean you must prove (1) you are who you say you are; (2) social security number; and (3) your home address. A list of acceptable documents and FAQs is available on the Georgia Department of Driver Services website.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Republican Danny Dukes will seek election as Chairman of the Cherokee County School Board. Dukes pledges to “eliminate all teacher furloughs by reducing a bloated central office, take every step possible to cut the County dropout rate in half, and never vote for a tax increase.”

“During the last few weeks, I have discovered a groundswell of support for a true conservative as Cherokee County School Board Chair. Parents, teachers, community leaders and citizens share my sincere passion for the children of our county. We all deserve a School Board with positive, collaborative energy and an effective leader who works for solutions based on conservative principles,” said Danny. “We can have the highest performing school system in Georgia if we put students first and pledge to work with other elected leaders to solve problems. And we can do all this without raising taxes.”

Join David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black tonight at 5 PM to support the reelection campaign of State Rep. Steve Davis (R-Stockbridge). $10 gets you a steak and potato dinner and kids eat free.

Federal court vacancies on the bench for the Northern District of Georgia and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals are straining their ability to handle cases and will be worsened when an additional sitting judge takes senior status.

Georgia’s Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of three year property tax assessment freeze by Effingham County that sought to help address the flood of foreclosures.

The Effingham County Chamber of Commerce heard from the Georgia Ports Authority on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, while the comment period on SHEP has been expanded by 15 days by the US Army Corps of Engineers to June 5th.

South Carolina’s Savannah River Maritime Commission hopes to limit the dredging that will allow better access to the Port of Savannah to 45 feet, rather than the 47 feet recommended by the Corps.

Savannah and Macon prompted some of this year’s revisions to Georgia’s Open Records and Open Meetings laws, according to a discussion by Republican Attorney General Sam Olens at the Atlanta Press Club.

The US Chamber of Commerce is buying ads in four states and will likely enter into Congressional races in Georgia.

Georgia State Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) issued a statement lauding Gov. Nathan Deal for signing Shafer’s Zero-Based Budgeting legislation.

“I applaud Governor Deal, not just for signing the bill but for his leadership in voluntarily implementing zero based budgeting,” Shafer said.  “This tool is already being used to identify unnecessary spending and ensure that tax dollars are being used wisely.”

Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau is considering proposing a 1% county sales tax to replace property taxes in funding county government operations. I’m sure it’s completely unrelated to his reelection campaign and choice of political consultant.

Ruby D. Jones is seeking reelection to the Savannah-Chatham County School Board.

Philip Johnson is running as a Democrat for Newton County Commission District Five.

Robert Stokely is running as a Republican for State House District 71, to replace Billy Horne, who is not seeking reelection.

Republican Jon Heffer will run for State House District 28 in Banks, Habersham, and Stephens Counties.

Susan D. Brown announced her candidacy for Hall County Probate Judge.

Randy Evans, a retired police officer, is running for Whitfield Magistrate Judge.

The Rome City Commission has appointed Detrick Redding to the Ward 2 vacancy on the Commission..

Republican Dick Perryman is running for District Attorney in the Alapaha Judicial Circuit, which comprises Atkinson, Berrien, Clinch, Cook, and Lanier Counties.

Carroll County Commissioner Kevin Jackson is seeking reelection as a Republican.

Five of six candidates for Richmond County Sheriff addressed the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government yesterday.

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) joined Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) in discussing recent metal theft legislation passed by the Georgia General Assembly.

Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann asked her colleague Emma Darnell to stop insulting North Fulton residents.

Bibb County Board of Education members will discuss reapportionment maps passed by the General Assembly at 6 PM on Thursday.

Peachtree Corners is making progress as Georgia’s newest city.

Forsyth County is re-running the election announcement for T-SPLOST after messing up the wording the first time.

Tomorrow night, Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) will hold a fundraiser at Manuel’s Tavern from 6 PM to 8 PM.

Ends & Pieces

Alan Abramowitz of the Emory University Department of Political Science discusses the role of SuperPACS and Merle Black has a short history of “Nasty Politics” and negative advertising.

The Board of Regents has released names for two institutions resulting from the merger of predecessor colleges. According to GPB, North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega and Gainesville State University will become the University of North Georgia, while Middle Georgia State College is the new name for the merger of Middle Georgia College in Cochran and Macon State College.

2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet

Porsche Cars North America, headquartered in Atlanta, released April sales figures that show 911 sales up 69% over the previous April and the best April ever for the company.

Georgia Tech will receive federal funding for research into nuclear power production and scholarships under the Nuclear Energy University Program, part of a $47 million program by the US Department of Energy to spur careers in nuclear power.

Georgia Power will testify before the Public Service Commission today that it is still under budget for the construction of Plant Vogtle’s new nuclear reactors, though overall costs may increase.

Seven cases against alleged Masters ticket scalpers were dismissed.

Mary Echols, daughter of PSC member Tim Echols was named Prep Player of the Week by the Athens newspaper after leading Athens Christian to a third state track-and-field championship and winning four individual and relay titles. That’s a pretty amazing performance.

Krispy Kreme is celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year.

Political partisans may choose not to accept facts that clash with their strongly held beliefs.

On a range of issues, partisans seem partial to their political loyalties over the facts. When those loyalties demand changing their views of the facts, he said, partisans seem willing to throw even consistency overboard.

Wisconsin’s “Total Recall” dynamic may be a harbinger of partisan civil war nationwide.

The politics of pro-Walker and anti-Walker are so advanced in the Badger State now that relatively few voters remain persuadable. And the depth of that divide is expected to remain, regardless of the outcome on June 5.

The divides of our era seem to be deepening. Consider the big margin by which North Carolina adopted a constitutional amendment this week that denies legal standing to civil unions and domestic partnerships all in the name of banning gay marriages that were already outlawed in the state.

And consider the drubbing Indiana gave to six-term Senate icon Richard Lugar in Tuesday’s Republican primary, which state treasurer Richard Mourdock won with 60 percent of the vote.

20
Apr

Georgia Political News for April 20, 2012

Vote today in our online survey on the July 31st T-SPLOST election. We’ll roll out the first set of results on Monday morning.

“23398” is a playful, friendly, baby female lab available for adoption beginning Sunday from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

The adoption fee is $30, plus a $60 required vet fee. Seniors age 55 and older and county employees adopt for free with seniors paying only half the vet fee, and county employees paying the $60 vet fee.

Governor Deal signs tax reform bill and announces 1500 new jobs

Gov. Deal signed HB 386, the “Georgia Jobs and Family Tax Reform Plan” during the Governor’s Awards for the 2012 Manufacturers of the Year.  The legislation reduces the marriage penalty tax and eliminates the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing.

“This tax reform package makes Georgia a better place to run and grow a business, and makes it an even better place to raise a family,”said Deal“These reforms could not have been made without the leadership of the General Assembly, and these significant changes will serve Georgians well.”

“The elimination of the marriage penalty in our income tax code will cut costs for Georgia families, totaling an estimated $140 million a year,”Deal said“Furthermore, the removal of state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing is key to competiveness and to reaching our goal to make Georgia the No. 1 state in which to do business.”

Additionally, the tax reform legislation:

● Eliminates the “birthday tax” on motor vehicles, substituting a sales tax payable when a car is titled;
● Reinstates sales tax holidays for back-to-school and green energy purchases;
● Revises sales tax exemptions on agriculture to ensure fairness and consistency;
● E-Fairness: Broadens the tax base and increases fairness by making online retailers play by the same rules as everyone else;
● Curtails abuse in our conservation easement income tax credit program;
● Caps retirement income exclusion for seniors at current level of $65,000 ($130,000 per couple);
● Eliminates sales tax exemption for film productions;
● Creates a one percent sales tax exemption on commercial aviation fuel to make our fuel rates more competitive with other major airports.

The bill signing came the same day that Gov. Deal announced that Baxter International will invest $1 billion and bring 1500 new jobs to Stanton Springs business park in Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties.

Baxter was lured with a mixture of incentives, including up to $32 million in job tax credits for actual jobs being created and $32 million in sales tax exemptions on machinery and equipment. A $13.75 million grant was made from the OneGeorgia fund.

QuickStart, part of the Technical College System of Georgia, will assist the company in recruiting and training workers, and has played a major role in other economic development projects.

Having a good trained workforce is very important in site selection for companies like this. We want Georgia to be a home for Bio-tech industries and Bio-science industries like Baxter and this is a huge step in the right direction for us to do that.” Deal said.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle has an extensive interview with Governor Deal and representatives of Baxter and Department of Economic Development on how the deal came together. That publication also has a longer piece on the significance of the announcement to both the company and to Georgia’s burgeoning bio-pharm industries.

The Covington News discusses in-depth the local impact of the Baxter announcement and local involvement in luring the company, and a story on the office park where Baxter will become the first occupant.

The four-county Joint Development Authority agreed early Thursday to purchase the land on behalf of Baxter from TPA Realty Services, the group that designed the park and has been purchasing the land in installments. The purchase will be made with state grants and the authority will lease the land to Baxter for 10 years, after which the title will pass to Baxter upon payment of a nominal sum, said authority attorney Tommy Craig.

Craig said significant state and local incentives were provided; state incentives were $80 million according to the governor’s office, but local total incentives were not immediately available.

Deal also signed three bills altering education funding.

Gambling Proposal for Gwinnett unlikely to succeed

A $1 billion proposal to build a video casino is Gwinnett County that was pitched yesterday to the Lottery Board appears to be stalled.

Georgia Lottery Board ChairmanJames Braswell says even if the board has the power to act on its own it doesn’t plan to without the support of the Governor or the state legislature.

“We believe it’s a public policy decision that a seven member appointed board should not unilaterally decide on its own.”

Governor Deal has expressed opposition to expanding gaming in the state and legislative efforts to back the project stalled during this year’s legislative session.

Campaigns and Elections

Georgia has settled a lawsuit challenging the state’s voter registration procedures, subject to approval of the federal district court judge overseeing the case. If approved, the settlement will require the state to allow voter registration when a person applies for public assistance.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) condemned the lawsuit, calling it ludicrous.

Congressman Hank Johnson (D-4) will be challenged by Rockdale County businessman and pastor Courtney Dillard in the Democratic primary. Lincoln Nunnally, also from Rockdale County will join the primary challenge, but his “faux hawk” hairstyle makes him a very long shot.

Herman Cain endorsed Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) in the young lawyer’s reelection bid.

“Josh is a great young man,” Cain said during McKoon’s noon announcement Thursday on the plaza level of the Columbus Government Center. “He finished his first term in the Georgia Senate, and I’d like to see him go back to the Senate.”

McKoon, 33, has no announced challengers in the July 31 Republican primary.

If he is re-elected to the Senate, McKoon said he will focus again on ethics reform, reducing $4-a-gallon gasoline and introducing a bill to phase out the state income tax.

Currently, McKoon said a lobbyist could walk up to him, hand him the keys to a new car and it would be perfectly legal under Georgia law.

“Demanding honesty in government is not a Republican value or Democratic value,” he said. “It is an American value.”

To reduce $4 a gallon gas, the state senator said he wants the fleet of state vehicles to use compressed natural gas.

“It will reduce demand for gasoline,” he said.

If the state could phase out its 6 percent state income tax, McKoon said it would help hundreds of business owners. If re-elected, he plans to join forces with another lawmaker to change the law. State income tax generates about $9 billion per year but could be reduced in phases.

“I will put the state income tax where it belongs, in the history books,” McKoon said.

In Albany, a former high school principal, Robert Youngblood, will run for the open seat on Dougherty County School Board for District One. Last month, Lane Price announced a challenge to at-large board member Anita Williams-Brown. Districts three and five will also elect school board members, but no challenges have been announced to the incumbent members.

Lawyer Shawnn Kachmar will run for Savannah-Chatham school board district four.

Yesterday, NPR ran a story on Congressmen stalking lobbyists for contributions and today discusses how money can help lobbyists gain access to lawmakers.

 

Stories from across Georgia

The Georgia Ports Authority announced a record month for freight shipment through the state’s ports with 2.37 million tons shipped. The Port of Brunswick is the nation’s third-busiest port for automotive parts.

Former President George W. Bush addressed the opening ceremony banquet at the Junior Invitational golf tournament at Sage Valley in Graniteville on Wednesday.

Part of the river deepening project for the Port of Savannah will include conserving the remains of the CSS Georgia, a confederate ironclad that sank in the harbor in 1864. A program about the Georgia will be held in celebration of Confederate Memorial Day on April 29th at 2 PM at Westview Cemetery in Augusta.

“A number of the crew members were from the this area,” Young said. “We’ve identified some of them from Jefferson County and from Warren County.”

One of the little known facts about the ship was that its cannons were named for Georgia cities, he said.

“They gave city names to 10 cannons,” he said. “The first one was named Augusta.”

Confederate Memorial Day is officially celebrated in Georgia on April 26.

Conservationists working on preservation of the Hunley, a confederate submarine that also sank in 1864 unveiled the conserved lantern that may have produced the mysterious “blue light” a Union sailor reported.

Charleston, SC Mayor Joseph Riley, Jr. spoke at a fundraiser for the Hale House Foundation in Augusta on Thursday.

Power4Georgians, the private developer of a $2.1 billion coal-fired electric plant announced that Taylor Energy Fund has joined the financing of proposed Plant Washington near Sandersville.

Mayors of three Houston County municipalities expressed different opinions about consolidating city and county governments as neighboring Macon city and Bibb county governments move toward a July 31 referendum on consolidation.

Sara Blakely, founder of Atlanta’s Spanx, was named to Time Magazine’s “100 most influential” list. Blakely also recently joined the Forbes “rich list.”

Kia was named Georgia Large Manufacturer of the Year.

Savannah City Attorney James Blackburn will retire after serving the city for 42 years.

Savannah is the 11th best city for hipsters in the nation, with Atlanta placing 32d. The rankings tell you where to avoid find hipster hot spots in the cities.

18
Apr

Georgia Political News for April 18, 2012

“Smokey” is approximately two months old and weighs 5.6 pounds. A mixed-breed male puppy, he is available for adoption tomorrow from Walton Animal Control Services. If you’re looking for a female puppy or a pair, his sister “Stella” is also available.

Sponsored posts - Yesterday we announced that we will be accepting sponsored posts for the rest of the month to raise money for dog and cat rescue in Georgia. For $1 per word, you can place your message on our website and morning emails. Make a donation to a dog or cat rescue, send us proof of the donation and what you want to say. Sponsored posts will be clearly identified as such and we reserve the right to edit them. No attacks, please.

Bibb County Commissioners are considering building a new animal shelter with four times the space of the existing facility as part of a move to reduce the number of euthanizations performed.

Governor Deal signs bill strengthening Sunshine Laws

Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 397 by Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) yesterday, which strengthens Georgia’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws by increasing the fines for violating the law, reducing the cost of photocopies of requested records from .25 per page to .10 per page, and updating the law’s language with respect to electronic records.

In a press release, Gov. Deal said, “This legislation toughens enforcement of our Open Records law by substantially increasing penalties for noncompliance, allows for civil as well as criminal procedures and requires that all votes take place in a public forum. We have crafted a document that makes it easier for Georgians to keep track of their government’s activities and to know their rights, and it clarifies the responsibilities of public officials.”

Republican Attorney General Sam Olens said, “The law signed today will enable Georgians to clearly understand their rights and assist governments in more effectively responding to citizens. Moreover, it provides my office the tools needed to properly enforce the law.”

Full text of the press releases is available on our website.

Georgia Democratic Party Political Director Faces Allegations

The background of Georgia Democratic Party Political Director Ali Rashad Richey and his future in politics are in question as Georgia Unfiltered writes:

Between 1998 and present day, Democratic Party of Georgia Political Director Ali Rashad Richey became very intimate with the DeKalb and Fulton county jails.

You see, Rashad Richey was arrested twelve times on a variety of charges including:

  • Burglary;
  • Driving with revoked license;
  • Battery;
  • Family violence;
  • Obstructing an officer; and
  • Violating probation.

Richey’s last arrest was in 2010.

This is likely to provide fodder in the ongoing struggle within the Georgia Democratic Party between supporters and detractors of Chair Mike Berlon.

Campaigns and Elections

The Gainesville Times notes that attendance at political events in their area appears to be increasing.

Congressman Jack Kingston has raised $1.25 million to defend his seat. His opponent, Democrat Nathan Russo has not filed with the FEC, stating that he has not raised or spent the $5000 threshold amount to trigger the reporting requirement.

Continue Reading..

13
Apr

Georgia Political News for April 13, 2012

“23235” is a black lab-mix puppy who is playful and friendly; she is available for adoption from Gwinnett County Animal Services today. Adoption costs $30 plus a $60 vet fee. People 55 or older may adopt free and pay only $30 vet fee, while county government employees pay only the $60 vet fee and no adoption fee.

An article in the Augusta Chronicle discusses the bond between Aiken County, SC K9 police officers and their handlers.

The Gwinnett County Animal Task Force will issue a report on how the county’s shelter can increase adoptions, decrease euthanasia and operate more efficiently.

The number of animals euthanized fell from 7,850 in 2009 to 4,128 in 2011. But the number of animals adopted fell from 2,093 to 1,856 during that same time.

Here are my recommendations: (1) better photography will help increase adoptions; (2) social media appears to be making a difference in saving dogs and cats.

Republican District Conventions Saturday

First District
Glynn Academy Auditorium, 1001 Mansfield Street, Brunswick, GA 31520

Second District

Third District
FDR Conference Center, Georgia Hall, Warm Springs, Georgia

Fourth District

Fifth District
Atlanta Masonic Center, 1690 Peachtree Street, N.W., Atlanta, Georgia 30309

Sixth District
Dunwoody High School Auditorium, 5035 Vermack Road, Dunwoody, Georgia 30338
Bye-bye Obama Barbecue immediately following the convention

Seventh District
North Gwinnett High School, 20 Level Creek Rd, Suwanee, Georgia 30024

Eighth District

Ninth District
Jefferson Civic Center, 65 Kissam Street, Jefferson, GA 30549
Banquet tonight featuring Gov. Nathan Deal, Chair Sue Everhart, SOS Brian Kemp, Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton

Tenth District
Spotlight Theater, 1050 Parkside Main, Greensboro, GA 30642

Eleventh District
Roswell Street Baptist Church, 774 Roswell Street, Marietta, GA 30060

Twelfth District
Southeastern Technical College, Toombs Auditorium, 3001 East First Street, Vidalia, GA 30436
Lunch afterwards at Chatter’s Restaurant, 64 N.W. Broad Street, Vidalia, GA 30436

Thirteenth District
Collar Community Center, 2625 Joe Jerkins Blvd., Austell, GA 30106

Fourteenth District
Dalton State College, Bandy Gymnasium, 650 College Drive, Dalton, GA

If your district information is not listed, please contact your district or county chair. In any case, you should probably double-check the location and time.

Elections for GOP National Committee

Frank Strickland has announced his candidacy for National Committeeman. Randy Evans has continued to rollout endorsements via facebook. At least one endorser we heard of was not aware that Randy had opposition when they decided to endorse, but we don’t know if it would have made a difference.

Linda Herren has also sent out an email asking for support for her reelection. I will say for Linda that I think I’ve seen her at more events over the years in various counties and party meetings than anyone else from the GOP.

Ron Paul and Personality Types

Bill Simon has written an interesting piece about the Meyers-Briggs personality types and Ron Paul supporters, arguing that Paul appears to attract a high number of INTJ personalities, and that aspects of that personality type may explain both (a) part of Ron Paul’s appeal to some people; and (b) why so many of the Ron Paul supporters run into issues when dealing with “Establishment” Republicans.

Continue Reading..

10
Apr

Georgia Political News for April 10, 2012

Ari (left) and Anabella are female Golden Retriever mixes available separately for adoption from Angels Among Us Rescue. Ari is about two years old and both dogs come up-to-date on their shots.

Rome City Commissioner Sue Lee is working to upgrade the animal control shelter, which she calls “the dungeon.”

“The Animal Control shelter is abysmal,” said Lee. “I tried at this last SPLOST to get them to put a new Animal Control shelter on the SPLOST, but not only was I turned down, but I was turned down big time.”

We really just need a new one altogether,” she said. “The county is in charge of that, and it’s just not a priority with them. With two new commissioners coming on, I would hope this would be a priority for them. But your chain is just as strong as your weakest link. The chain isn’t just weak; it’s broken.”

Rome historians and the local newspaper tell the interesting story of “Brownie, the Depot Dog,” who greeted visitors in the 1920s and 30s, and is buried on the grounds with a tombstone.

Executive Branch Announcements

Governor Nathan Deal announced that March revenues were up 5% over March 2011 to $1.16 billion. In a press release, Deal said, ““Though there is still a lot of room for improvemen. This upward economic growth pattern alongside several other solid economic indicators proves we are moving in the right direction.”

Attorney General Sam Olens announced that WellCare, an HMO, has settled fraud allegations with Georgia and eight other states and the Feds for $137.5 million plus interest, payable over four years. Georgia will receive $33 million and WellCare will undergo three years’ regulatory oversight in the settlement of MediCare fraud charges that also resulted in fraud charges against six current company executives.

Georgia DNR announced that Bald Eagle nesting sites in Georgia are up over last year, along with the number of fledgling Bald Eagles. The study also documents the first known Bald Eagle nest at Lake Lanier.

The State Ethics Transparency Commission found no basis for proceeding on an ethics charge filed against Governor Deal by Rome gadfly activist George Anderson. Deal’s lawyer, Randy Evans, called the remaining charges “frivolous.” The remaining charges include goofy charges related to airplane travel during the 2010 campaign that have been thoroughly debunked.

Campaigns and Elections

Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols hit a sour note when he solicited campaign donations in his Easter email to some activists.

His behavior on the PSC has been embarrassing. His excuses to repeated appearances of impropriety do not really hold up. And today he sends out an email that I struggle to reconcile with any sense of good decency for any Christian politician who is not a huckster, charlatan, or fraud.

The other Public Service Commission may take umbrage at Echols’s self-serving Op-Ed in the Athens Banner-Herald defending his vote to override a business decision made by Georgia Power and substitute his own judgment for that of the people who actually run the company. In addition to imposing costs of up to $3 billion on Georgia Power ratepayers, such action would be far in excess of the PSC’s authority to review utility decisions for whether they are prudent. A “strong conservative voice for less government interference,” indeed.

South Carolina GOP incumbents are facing a high number of primary challenges, apparently resulting from redistricting and Tea Party anti-incumbent sentiment.

Former Floyd County Commissioner Chad Whitefield has withdrawn from the race for state Senate district 52, which comprises Floyd County and parts of Chattooga, Bartow and Gordon counties. The only candidate currently in that race is former DOT Board Chair David Doss, who reported more than $26,000 cash on hand.

Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella) announced that he will run for reelection in new District 140, which comprises all of Crawford County and parts of Bibb, Houston, Monroe and Peach counties.

“I am proud to say I have delivered on many of the issues I campaigned on,” Dickey said in a news release. “I have supported two balanced state budgets that reduced state spending to nearly 2001 spending levels. I supported comprehensive tax reform that will reduce taxes on our families and spur job growth.

“To cut waste and make government more efficient, I supported zero-based budgeting requiring state departments to justify every dollar spent. In addition, I supported efforts to save the HOPE Scholarship, crack down on metal theft, and grow our economy.”

The Augusta Commission voted unanimously to ask a federal judge to draw new district lines for Commission and Richmond County Board of Education seats after the local legislative delegation deadlocked during the session.

In Gwinnett County, Brian Whiteside will seek election as Clerk of Court following the death of Tom Lawler.

Gerald Couch leads fundraising for the quarter in the race for Hall County Sheriff, with more than $13,000 collected, plus a personal loan from the candidate. Jeff Strickland has raised the highest total to date with $31,000 cash on hand.

Brook Davidson is running for Hall County Probate Judge.

Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson gave $500 to Regina Quick (R), former Treasurer of the local GOP, in her campaign against Doug McKillip (DR?). Quick raised more than $32,000 for the quarter and has nearly $28k on hand to McKillip’s $40k on hand.

Democrat Spencer Frye raised more than twice the amount of his opponent, Rep. Keith Heard (D-Athens).

Dougherty County Commissioner Muarlean Edwards may run against incumbent State Rep. Carol Fullerton (D-Albany), who has announced her reelection campaign.

Ports

Congressman Jack Kingston (R-Savannah) accompanied FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg on a briefing and tour of the Port of Savannah, saying

“One of the core missions of the FDA is to ensure that the food on our dinner tables and in our school cafeterias is safe to eat,” Kingston said. “That effort includes keeping a watchful eye over the food imports that enter our country through our ports.”

More than 40 percent of US poultry exports ship through the Savannah port each year.

The South Carolina Supreme Court will hear a challenge by environmental groups including the Savannah Riverkeeper, which is based in Augusta, GA, to the proposed deepening of the Savannah River Channel to accomodate post-Panamax ships to the Port. The groups seek to overturn the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s decision to issue a dredging permit to the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Random Remainders

The Houston County school board is considering whether to teach elementary school students about sexual predators in an attempt to prevent children from being lured and abducted or sexually harassed. Similar material is already being presented to students whose parents approve, but the materials are considered outdated.

2012 County Health Rankings suggest that Middle Georgia suffers from a healthcare gap, demonstrated by the finding that Bibb County residents die at an earlier age than other Georgians.

Former Gwinnett County Commission Chair Wayne Hill, who is also a private pilot, said he would vote against privatizing Briscoe Field if he still sat on the Commission.

Snellville’s police chief now also will act as interim City Manager. A city resident noted, “obviously you all need somebody to baby-sit you; you can’t even agree on what to do for 60 days. Listening to this is like listening to my kids bicker.”

Howard Finster’s “Paradise Gardens” in Summerville, GA has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

DeKalb County’s Jan Selman, a political coach, will address the April 14 League of Women Voters of Carrollton and Carroll County’s annual meeting about the political process and how to prepare for electoral success.

The Columbus Charter Review Commission voted to remove from November’s ballot a proposal to empower the city to impose a $500 “basic services fee” on property owners.

The Whitfield County Commission will seek a new finance director, after the resignation of the new director after five days on the job.

Lowndes County is renegotiating the disposition of LOST tax proceeds with its municipalities.

The Dalton Daily Citizen has a four-part series on the Great Locomotive Chase from 1862.

9
Apr

Georgia Political News for April 9, 2012

Ferrari is the last of five puppies who were found together on a country road in Walton County, and are available today from Walton County Animal Control Services. They run 6-10 pounds each and have received their vaccinations and been dewormed and flea treated. $40 each is to cost to save their lives. Four females and one male. If you cannot adopt, consider contacting Walton Animal Control and making a pledge toward their rescue. Walton County routinely posts monetary pledges made by private individuals toward any rescue adopting a certain dog or cat. Adopting some puppies would be a great part of celebrating the Passover/Easter weekend.

Georgia Political News: The Boondocks Edition

Today’s news is late because I am traveling in the Boondocks without wireless access on my laptop. I blame Clear Wireless, whose poor customer service resulted in me leaving town unable to get a replacement modem.

Bills Signed by Governor Deal

Here is the current list of bills that Gov. Nathan Deal has signed; it is updated at 10 AM everyday that new information is available.

Ralston criticized for trial delays

Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) has been criticized by the plaintiff in a lawsuit against a man Ralston is defending in court against vehicular homicide charges. The plaintiff alleges that Ralston is using his elected position to delay trial of the criminal charges resulting from a fatal car wreck involving the defendant and the plaintiff’s late husband and daughter.

Legislators may request court date changes due to conflicts between their legislative service and their representation of clients in their private practice. Ralston responded that blaming him alone for delays in the case is not accurate,  noting that another lawyer represented the defendant for the first years of the case, and saying that he was ready to try the case last year but prosecutors declined to go to court at the time.

A follow-up by Channel 2 looked at some of the specific dates and reasons given in Ralston’s requests for legislative leave in another case.

June 7, 2011
Civic Luncheon in Ocilla
Speaking on behalf of the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

June 7-9, 2011
Georgia Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Council
St. Simons Island, Ga
Speaking to the conference on two occasions, as well as meeting with House Committee Chairmen regarding budgetary matters as well as the upcoming Special Session of the General Assembly for redistricting.

June 9-10, 2011
Georgia Automobile Dealers Association
Amelia Island, Florida
Speaking on two occasions and be a part of a panel discussion on legislative issues, including proposal for tax reform in Georgia.

June 12-13, 2011
Republican Legislative Conference Committee
Naples, FL

June 13-14, 2011
Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association
Savannah, Ga
Speaking and participating in a panel discussion on legislative issues.

June 14-16, 2011
Georgia Healthcare Association
Amelia Island, FL
Speaking to the group, and also participate in meetings with committees from the group on tax reform, medicaid, and budget related issues.

Campaigns, Elections and Community Events

BrookhavenYES, the advocacy group working for successful passage of the expected City of Brookhaven incorporation election, will hold a Family Barbecue at Blackburn Park, located at 3493 Ashford Dunwoody Road on Sunday, April 15th from 11 AM to 3 PM. The event is free, and I understand that the family to be barbecued for the greater good will be chosen by lottery.

Continue Reading..

12
Mar

Georgia Political News for March 12, 2012

Hannah is a five-year old female Golden Retriever who originally hails from North Carolina but is now in the custody of Adopt A Golden Atlanta, from whom she may be adopted. She is currently heartworm positive and AGA is seeking tax-deductible donations to help pay for the $500 heartworm treatment.

Since its founding, AGA has rescued 2694 Golden Retrievers and similar breeds at an average cost of $841 per dog. Their next adoption day is Sunday, April 1, 2012 at the Pet Set on N. Druid Hills at Briarcliff.

Legislative News

Today’s Senate legislative calendar is available here and you may watch the session online here beginning around 10 AM. Here is the Senate Committee Meeting schedule.

Today’s House legislative calendar is available here and you may watch the session online here beginning around 10 AM. Here is the House Committee Meeting schedule.

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action is blaming Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) for working behind the scenes and against the NRA to kill an amendmentauthored by Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville) to his own Senate Bill 350.

Senate Leadership — more specifically state Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams and state Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers — worked against the NRA’s efforts behind the scenes and helped persuade their colleagues in the Republican Senate caucus that the NRA’s employee protection legislation was too divisive of an issue and it was apparently more important to side with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Association of Realtors than to uphold the rights of law-abiding gun owners throughout the state.

It is unclear on what basis the NRA makes those assertions against Senators Williams and Rogers.

Senate Bill 350 provides that firearms seized by law enforcement agencies that are not being used as evidence must be returned to their rightful, legal owners if the owner was innocent of wrongdoing.

The Balfour amendment would have protected employees who keep a gun locked in their car at their place of employment from being fired for that reason. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce opposed the Balfour amendment.

The Macon Ledger-Enquirer Telegraph editorial board writes that House Bill 811, which would require the state to spend earmarked user fees for the purpose the fees are intended, rather that simply being added to the General Fund, leaves the fox in charge of the henhouse, but at least gives the hens some protection.

Maggie Lee write in the Ledger-Enquirer Telegraph that a GOP legislative supermajority is possible in this year’s elections.

“If things break right, (the GOP) should be able to get a two-thirds majority” in the state House and Senate, said Charles Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia and a student of state politics for nearly 40 years.

In my opinion, there is nothing magical about a legislative supermajority as the GOP caucuses seldom see unanimity on major issues, as illustrated by the difficulties in passing the Charter School Constitutional Amendment.

Juvenile justice reform legislation, which will emphasize treatment options for drug offenders designed to lower repeat offenses rather than strict jail terms, is before a joint legislative committee chaired by Rep. Rich Golick and Sen. Bill Hamrick. According to the Walter Jones of the Morris News Service:

Georgians overwhelmingly support the changes, according to a survey released last month by the Pew Center on the States.

In a telephone poll, 85 percent of the 600 likely voters questioned in January said they agree that the sentence didn’t matter as much as reducing the likelihood of a repeat crime.

Rep. Jay Powell and Attorney General Sam Olens wrote an op-ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution arguing that reforms to the state’s Open Records and Open Meetings acts further the stated intent that “Open government is essential to a free, open, and democratic society.”

The AJC believes that Democrats in the Georgia Senate, who hold 20 of 56 seats, have made themselves relevant by uniting against GOP measures that require a super-majority for passage. But UGA Political Science Professor Charles Bullock told the AJC, “Suddenly, [Democrats] have been exiled to Pluto or something,” Bullock said. “It’s rare the Republicans do need the support of the Democrats.”

Lobbyists on both sides of the Charter School Amendment have been spending money at a furious pace to influence the course of the legislation.

An Associated Press analysis of the bi-monthly reports that lobbyists turn in to the state ethics commission shows that charter school supporters have spent at least $7,800 since January on everything from breakfast to framed photos for state lawmakers. On the other side of the debate, groups representing teachers, school administrators, school boards and public school parents have spent at least $2,400 on lunch and coffee for lawmakers.

Congratulations to State Rep. Joe Wilkinson on the birth of his first granddaughter, Ella Grace Wilkinson, who weighed in at eight pounds. Regarding the fact that Ella Grace was born in Columbus, Ohio, Rep. Wilkinson said, “Just because a cat has her kittens in the oven doesn’t mean that they are muffins. She must be a Southerner because she had the good manners to wait to be born on a day that her Dad had off from work.”

Executive Branch

Attorney General Sam Olens accepted $815 million on behalf of Georgia from banks accused of robo-signing to foreclose on homes in Georgia. Approximately $82 million will be paid to homeowners affected by the fraud at the rate of $2000 per homeowner. Homeowners retain the right to sue for wrongful foreclosure. $104 million will go directly into the state’s general fund and Gov. Deal is asking the legislature to direct at least part of that into the rainy day fund.

GOP District Conventions

Governor Nathan Deal addressed the Cobb County Republican Convention on Saturday, highlighting state successes since his taking office in January 2011.

Meanwhile, Ron Paul supporters were busy disrupting and delaying conventions across the state.

The Texas congressman’s forces took over the DeKalb County delegate-selection convention in eastern metropolitan Atlanta. The mostly young, well-educated and well off Paul partisans nearly did so in Cobb County in northern metropolitan Atlanta, Republican convention participants in the state told The Washington Times.

Party regulars called the Paul supporters’ efforts a “hijacking.”

The Paul brigades’ strategy was to try to outlast the party regulars at the county conventions, raising unexpected issues and delaying long enough for the regulars who were unprepared for the delays to throw up their hands and leave the convention sites to fulfill other obligations.

“It was absolute bedlam and chaos,” Forsyth County physician and activist Brent Meadows said. “Our county’s convention didn’t end till 6:15 p.m.”

Previously, the Daily Beast wrote about the plans of the Paulbots:

The Paul campaign has rigorously organized its volunteers to attend the mass precinct meetings that took place all over Georgia. It has been instructing supporters on parliamentary procedure and state Republican rules. It is also giving advice on convention etiquette. In an e-mail to supporters, Charles Gregory, Georgia State Coordinator for Ron Paul 2012, wrote:

“It is my personal recommendation that you dress professionally and not overtly identify yourself as a Ron Paul supporter. Your position should simply be: “I’m here to send Obama home, that’s all I care about.” If asked who you support—just say you ‘haven’t made up your mind yet but they’re all better than what we’ve got now,’ etc.”

One longtime Gwinnett County Republican activist wrote on Facebook that, “It was disgusting how disruptive they were at our convention here in Gwinnett!” and another from coastal Georgia wrote, “Funny how the Paul bots are so critical of the political parties, and the political process, yet so eagerly game the system in an attempt to steal delegates for their candidate after the voters so soundly rejected him.”

It was bad enough at the DeKalb GOP convention that I attended that I now believe that the state GOP should adopt rules either requiring a loyalty pledge to support the eventual nominee as long as his name is not “Ron Paul,” or a verified record of voting in Republican primary elections that could be waived by local conventions on a case-by-case basis.

Presidential Election

Speaking of the Alabama and Mississippi primaries on which Newt Gingrich has placed all his chips, Emory University Political Science Professor Merle Black told NPR, “Santorum presents a direct challenge to the electoral coalition Gingrich put together in Georgia. If Santorum wins either of these states, he destroys the rationale for Gingrich’s candidacy.”

Georgia-based GOP political consultant Joel McElhannon told NPR, “It’s almost like Newt Gingrich losing Georgia. It’s a death knell. There’s [then] no legitimate argument for him to stay in. That doesn’t mean he won’t stay in. He’s Newt Gingrich.”

Nate Silver, who writes the FiveThirtyEight column for the New York Times says that geography is the best predictor of which candidate will carry a state’s primary or caucus.

Silver notes that Santorum carried Kansas and three adjoining states and that all his wins were in contiguous states, while Gingrich’s only wins were in the Deep South states of Georgia and South Carolina and Romney is strongest in urban and suburban counties.

Campaigns and Elections

Congressman Paul Broun will debate challengers, but not for a couple months. Opponent Stephen Simpson, running in the Republican primary, had previously challenged Broun to a series of five debates.

Republican challenger Stephen Simpson, a businessman and retired military officer from Milledgeville, challenged Broun last month to a series of five debates.

The University of Georgia College Republicans are organizing a debate in late March or early April, chairman Jamie Jordan said. The Georgia College and State University chapter will host a debate in Milledgeville May 22, Simpson said.

But Broun spokeswoman Jessica Hayes said the congressman won’t debate until after the candidate qualifying period ends May 25. No date has been scheduled, she said.

Republicans are lining up to beat their heads against a wall challenge Democratic Congressman Hank Johnson. Chris Vaughn is a pastor and hosts a cable show and has been endorsed by Georgia Conservatives in Action and Henry County Commission Chair B.J. MathisCatherine Davis, who has previously challenged Johnson announced at the DeKalb GOP Convention on Saturday that she is running again.

Alan Shinall has resigned as Chairman of the Cherokee County Elections Board in order to run for a new house seat in district 23. Shinall has chaired the elections board for 10 years and joins Mandi Ballinger and businessman Troy Welker, who previously announced for the seat. All three candidates are running as Republicans.

Businessman Jerome Edmondson will challenge incumbent DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis in the Democratic Primary.

Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet of the Superior Court for the Augusta Judicial Circuit will run for reelection this year in Burke, Columbia and Richmond counties.

Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength will retire from the office he has held for 11 years and is not seeking reelection after 35 years with the department.

The City of Cornelia, in Habersham County, is headed to an April 3 special election runoff for Mayor between J.C. Irby, Jr. and Ernie Garrett.

Local News

Dawsonville Mayor Joe Lane Cox, who served since 2004, died Friday. “Our city is in mourning,” said Councilman James Grogan. “Our prayers are with his family.”

The Gwinnett Daily Post reports that approximately 20 percent of cars using HOT lanes in Gwinnett County are not paying the required toll.

Solar Power

The director of the Energy Institute at MIT warns that distributed production of solar power added to the existing grid may destabilize the distribution of electricity.

“That reflects what an amazing machine this is, spread out geographically, always having to balance demand and supply because electricity is not stored,” he says.

Every day, with the flick of a switch, millions of Americans tap into the electricity grid. It’s a web of power stations, transformers and transmission lines that span the continent, distributing electricity like veins and arteries distribute blood.

Electricity has to keep flowing all the time. Grid operators constantly match what power plants are producing with what people and their TVs, microwaves and air conditioners need. It’s the world’s biggest balancing act.

So what happens when you add in unpredictable sources of electricity, like wind or solar power?

“The operator does not have control of when to turn it on and off,” Moniz says. “It’s a new challenge that we just have to meet, and we’re not doing it at anything like the pace that I think we need.”

“We have to have a backup,” says Steve Berberich, the grid’s CEO. “There are times when Mother Nature decides to bring in clouds and turn off the wind, but I think everybody in that case still wants to have power.”

Oops – twice this morning I mistakenly referred to the Macon Ledger-Enquirer, when I meant to write Macon Telegraph. I blame it on 5 AM today really being 4 AM in my head.

29
Feb

Newt Gingrich at the Georgia State Capitol

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25
Feb

Georgia Political News for February 25, 2012 Weekend Edition

Today’s adoptable dog is “Pooky,” a female Great Pyrenees at the Walton County Animal Shelter. She’s available immediately from an owner turn-in and the previous owner said she’s very sweet with kids and other dogs. As long as you don’t keep livestock, the problem that led to her being surrendered won’t affect you. Turns out she like chasing chickens and goats.

If you think Pooky looks like a match but you need more information about the breed, head over to Great Pyrenees Rescue and learn about the big, fluffy white dogs.

Here’s the weirdest speech from the floor of a state legislature we’ve ever seen. Pray it doesn’t get reprised in the Georgia debate on abortion.

Tonight you can join me at the “Daniel Needs a Kidney Fundraiser and Mixer,” From 6-10 PM at the Georgia Democratic Party’s Headquarters. Republican attending the event have been promised partisan amnesty for the evening.

Saturday voting is in full effect today. Early voting this year has been reduced from 45 days to 21 days. Voters may request an absentee ballot for the March 6th Presidential Preference election through this Friday, Mar. 3d.

In Memoriam

Lance Cpl. Corey A. Little, who graduated from Sandy Creek High School in Fayette County and attended Southern Polytechic, gave his life in a helicopter crash during night training along the Arizona-California border. Please join us in thanking the family of Lance Cpl. Little and praying for them. He is survived by his pregnant wife, Nicole, brother Nickolas and mother Wanda.

This morning, Capt. Nicholas Whitlock who was killed a week ago in Africa in the service of the United States Air Force, returns to Coweta County, where his funeral will be held on Sunday at First Baptist Church in Newnan. His family asks that donations in his memory be made to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, provides full scholarship grants and educational and family counseling to the surviving children of special operations personnel who die in operational or training missions and immediate financial assistance to severely wounded special operations personnel and their families. Surviving Captain Whitlock are his wife, Ashley Oddi Whitlock of Destin, Fla.; parents, Jimmy and Clare Whitlock of Newnan; brothers, James and Robert Whitlock of Newnan; grandparents, Wendell and Elva Whitlock of Newnan and Henry and Clare Schade of Florida; two nieces and a nephew. We pray for the family.

Captain Whitlock flew in surveillance and intelligence gathering operations in a plane based on the Pilatus PC-12, a popular plane among private aviators.

Legislative News

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers‘s (R-Woodstock) Senate Bill 153, passed the Senate unanimously and will require that employees of local school systems who lose their jobs for finanancial reasons and through no fault of their own will be provided written documentation of that fact. This is a great bill, and I’d like to see the concept extended to all government employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.

The Senate passed SB 474 by Sen. Fran Millar (R-Pronounced “Miller”), which reduces the length of eligibility for unemployment benefits in order to help pay back more than $700 million borrowed from the Federales. The bill passed 34-13 on a party line vote with Democrats criticizing the bill. Several senators questioned whether state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler was doing enough to address the debt.

Senate Bill 474, introduced by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R- Upper Left Hand Corner) would created under GRTA a regional transit council including local elected officials to coordinate local transit systems. The outlook for the bill looks dim as elected officials from Fulton and DeKalb counties are walking away.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp asked the Senate to withdraw SB 445 from consideration. The bill aimed to reduce the expense and time of applying for professional licenses.

Georgia counties are concerned that juvenile justice reform might cost them more money.

Senator Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) sent out a weekly review for his constituents that reviews legislation he introduced and major Senate bills.

Senator Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville) told the AP that he will not seek to pass a “personhood” constitutional amendment this year, preferring to support house legislaiton aimed at reducing abortions.

Executive Branch News

Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Robert C. McBurney to the Superior Court for the Atlanta Judicial Circuit (Fulton County). McBurney will take over the seat vacated by the resignation of former Judge Marvin Arrington; he served as senior litigation counsel with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and has received the FBI Director’s Award for Outstanding Counterterrorism Investigation, Council of Inspectors General Award for Excellence and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association National Award for Prosecutorial Excellence.

Gov. Deal also announced that Georgia State University will match scholarships provided by the new privately-funded REACH need-based scholarship, joining Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia.

The Georgia Department of Labor, under Commissioner Mark Butler, will hold a career expo for veterans seeking employment on Feb. 29, 2012  from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Clairmont Presbyterian Church, 1994 Clairmont Rd in Decatur. For more information about the expo, contact the North Metro Career Center at (404) 679-5200.

Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black launched the Georgia Grown Executive Chef Program during the annual Taste of Georgia Legislative Reception. The program is designed to recognize culinary excellence and promote Georgia-grown crops.

The chefs participating in the inaugural 2012 program include: 
- Holly Chute, Executive Chef, Georgia Governor’s Mansion;
- Michael Deihl, CEC CCA AAC, Executive Chef, East Lake Golf Club;
- Kevin Gillespie, Executive Chef, Woodfire Grill Atlanta; and
- Hilary White, Executive Chef, The Hil, A Restaurant at Serenbe

Campaign news

President Obama’s trip to Georgia on March 16th will include an event at Tyler Perry Studios.

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson was in Athens yesterday attending the Georgia Libertarian Party’s state convention as he seeks the Libertarian nomination for President.

Republican candidates for the 2d Congressional district will debate on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 7 PM at the Century Fire Station, located at 934 U.S. Highway 19 South, in Leesburg, Ga.

Local News

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and Charter Review Commission Chair John Shinkle disagree whether to place a $500 “basic city services” fee on the November ballot. Tomlinson believes the fee will result in higher property taxes for 83% of homeowners and will only apply to those who would otherwise pay less than $500 in property taxes.

The Haralson County school system has applied to the state board of education to operate as a charter school system.

The City of Dunwoody has hired former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson to investigate leaks of information regarding a proposed real estate transaction. The transaction was discussed privately in executive session, which is allowed under state law.

Railroads, Ports and Freight

The Georgia Department of Transportation and Department of Economic Development released a report that details the state’s priorities for expanding the intermodal freight system. Included in the report are the fact that the logistics industry contributes 18 percent of Georgia’s gross state product, and includes more than 5000 companies employing more than 110,000 Georgians and generating $50 billion in annual sales.

Norfolk Southern has delivered some of the heaviest components for Plant Vogtle nuclear reactor units 3 and 4. The 3600-ton steam condenser is arriving in pieces as prefabricated parts. The parts are transferred through the Port of Savannah after an ocean voyage from Korea.

January saw drops in total imports for most US Ports, but the Port of Savannah saw a 3 percent increase, while February and March are expected to continue the trend of increasing freight traffic there.

The largest ship ever to call on the Port of Savannah arrived yesterday and is expected to leave today. MCS Roma could only call on the port and depart with a partial load and near high tide because of the need to deepen the river channel that allows access to the port. Here’s a video of the ship.

Earlier this week, United States Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss briefed Acting U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project and its needed role in creating jobs in Georgia during a tour of the facility. Blank said. “The Port of Savannah is an important part of that bi-partisan priority. I enjoyed learning about the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project firsthand. Building a state-of-the-art, modern port is key to creating an economy that’s built to last.”

Random

According to a poll by proponents of horse racing, 72 percent of Georgians favor allowing a statewide referendum on horse racing that includes pari-mutuel betting. I’m betting against it.