Category: Ethics

18
Jun

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


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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dismissed the complaint against former Democratic Governor Roy Barnes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The statement received applause from the audience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ends & Pieces

Lawrenceville will celebrate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15
Jun

State Ethics Commission had a full plate today

The State Ethics Campaign Finance and Transparency Commission dismissed the complaint against former Democratic Governor Roy Barnes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

15
Jun

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cherokee County school board district 2 candidates debated.

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

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

Lawyers, Guns, and Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5
Jun

[CLOSED] 2012 Georgia Republican Primary Survey

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24
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 24, 2012

Sammy is a little male puppy who was given to a kid without finding out whether his parents would allow it, so Sammy is at Walton Animal Control, where he can be adopted today for $40, which includes his vaccinations and deworming, as well as a voucher for reduced-price neutering. The shelter has no idea Sammy’s breed, but he is 5-6 weeks old and weighs about four pounds

Qualifying continues for 2012 Georgia Primary Elections

Qualifying for state offices continues today from 8 AM to 5 PM and tomorrow, May 25th, from 8 AM to Noon. Secretary of State Brian Kemp has most of the information you’ll need as a candidate on his website, where you can also find links to local elections offices for information on qualifying for local office.

Tuesday night, I was at the Common Cause Ethics-palooza in Sandy Springs, and spoke to Debbie Dooley, who holds a leadership position with Tea Party Patriots. She firmly resisted the “Draft Debbie Dooley” suggestions from several folks there, so nobody printed up bumperstickers to sell on the internet. So I was naturally skeptical when I heard Wednesday that she planned to qualify against Don Balfour for State Senate. She had just learned the day before that she’s in his district and had more to say about an Amended Complaint she planned to file with the Senate.

Senator Tommie Williams with Tea Party Patriots Leader Debbie Dooley

That’s the complaint she’s holding there, in the House Chamber, talking with Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams. I have a copy and will post it around 7:15 AM.

Anyway, Debbie said she plans to qualify today for Balfour’s Senate seat. Essentially, she had been talking to several potential candidates and when it appeared no one would qualify, she decided to put her money where her mouth is and sign up for the rodeo herself. I do respect that. Tea party activist Steve Ramey also is expected to qualify.

There were some early problems with connectivity the the Secretary of State’s qualifying website in the Democratic and Republican qualifying areas, but most problems appeared to have been fixed by lunchtime.

Rather than recap all of the matchups that will happen, and some that might not, I’ll refer you to the Secretary of State’s list of qualified candidates, which is updated in pretty close to real time. Aaron Gould Sheinin did a good job of keeping up with qualifying on the AJC website yesterday, and I expect he’ll be doing the same today.

Also at the AJC, Jim Galloway writes about how the casino gambling question made it onto the Republican ballot as a non-binding referendum question.

The very topic stunned the highest-perched Republicans in the land. “The casino question was a shock coming out of the convention — given the prominence of social conservatives in the party infrastructure,” said Brian Robinson, spokesman for Deal. “The governor’s office was as surprised as anyone to hear about it.”

The one exception was state GOP chairman Sue Everhart, who this week took responsibility for the decision. No monied interests had pushed for the question, she said. And the party’s most recent financial disclosure, for the month of April, shows no contributions from the gambling world. (We’ll check again later.)

Everhart said the casino question was prompted by emailed messages from two or three GOP activists who complained of the cash that was leaking away to gaming havens in Mississippi and North Carolina. “They said, if we didn’t do something before long, the Indians were going to do something – and we wouldn’t get any tax revenue out of that,” Everhart said.

To a person, members of the executive committee we spoke with said they were given no advance notice of the casino question – which lost on a first vote by the committee, and won only after it was emphasized that placing the question on the ballot didn’t constitute an endorsement.

I spoke earlier to a member of the GOP leadership who gave a similar explanation, saying, “I asked Sue, and she said she just wanted to know what the voters thought.”

Nearly twenty candidates signed the Common Cause Georgia pledge to sponsor legislation limiting lobbyist gifts to legislators to $100 per lobbyist, per legislator, per day.

Common Cause Georgia, the Georgia Tea Party Patriots and Georgia Conservatives in Action promised to make ethics reform a top issue in the July primaries as well as the November general election. The topic has gained momentum in the past week after Georgia Republicans, at their annual convention this past weekend, agreed to put the matter before voters in a nonbinding referendum during the July 31 primary.

Julianne Thompson, representing both the Tea Party Patriots and Conservatives in Action, said Wednesday that the coalition of groups will use the pledge as a kind of litmus test in a number of races. The coalition will announce those targeted contests once qualifying ends Friday.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said there are opportunities to strengthen the state’s ethics laws, but he remains steadfast that a cap is not the way to do it.

“I’m always open at looking at different ways of improving our law,” Ralston told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “Really, the fundamental difference I have with a few of the other people on this issue is I trust the people to give them information, full transparency and open information and let them make a decision.”

Ralston said that’s preferable to “an arbitrary, unworkable line that, frankly, I think is a gimmick.”

Among the signers was Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams (R-Lyons), according to a Press Release by Common Cause:

“We are very enthusiastic that Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams signed the pledge today to co-sponsor a bill to limit lobbyist gifts to legislators to $100,” said Julianne Thompson of the Georgia Tea Party Patriots

“Senator Williams has shown strong leadership in many areas and we have every confidence that he will take the lead on comprehensive ethics reform in the Georgia State Senate.”

“The Georgia Republican Party sent a strong message to its legislative leaders this past weekend by passing both the ballot initiative and resolution calling for the lobbyist gift cap. We encourage all legislative candidates to sign this pledge.”

A full list of signers is available here.

Senator George Hooks, Democrat of Americus, Georgia

 

Denis O’Hayer has an excellent interview with retiring Dean of the Senate and Senate Historian George Hooks of Americus. Hooks has served in the legislature for more than 30 years and WABE’s website has both the 5-minute broadcast version, and the extended 18-minute director’s cut. If you’re a student of Georgia politics and history, it’s not to be missed.

Elections officials in Fayette County have been dealing with rumors that federal lawsuits over district lines will affect elections, but say that only qualifying will be affected. A federal judge delayed qualifying for the Fayette County Commission because US Justice Department preclearance was pending but has now been issued. Commissioner Herb Frady will not seek reelection.

Candidates for Augusta Commission and Richmond County Board of Education will not qualify this week due to a federal lawsuit prompted by the General Assembly’s failure to adopt new district maps.

Fayette County school board member Janet Smola will not run for reelection. She says her successor should be “[a] believer in public education, not home schooling or private schooling.”

Cherokee County Commissioner Karen Bosch will not seek reelection. Her announcement came after local tea party activists alleged that the owner of a local recycling operation concealed campaign contributions to Bosch’s earlier campaign. The Cherokee County Commission used SPLOST funds to pay $1.8 million in payments that the recycling owner failed to make after the county issued $18 million in bonds to finance the facility. Bosch says her decision to forego reelection was a personal one, not motivated by the allegations.

Plans to trim the role of Fulton County by legislators may lead to federal court.

During a meeting with constituents earlier this month in Alpharetta, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, was quoted by a local weekly paper saying her “goal is to end Fulton County.”

“We can cut Fulton County down to size until we get Milton County,” Jones said, according to Neighbor Newspapers. “My goal is that we reduce the thumbprint … of Fulton County on your lives and your pocketbooks such that in a very few years, Atlanta and south Fulton will not fight us on re-creating Milton County because Fulton County will be insignificant.”

“People are not going to stand by and allow themselves to be manipulated like this,” said state Rep. Roger Bruce, a Democrat from unincorporated south Fulton. “They’re rigging it. There are people who like the county the way it is.”

In November, Fayette County voters will be asked to renew the education SPLOST.

Four candidates qualified yesterday for Chatham County Commission Chair, and Effingham also will have a spirited election with three candidates qualifying on the first day.

The Augusta Chronicle notes that a large number of candidates qualified for local offices yesterday, including five of the six announced candidates for Richmond County Sheriff.

Gwinnett County will have a full ballot as more than 60 candidates qualified yesterday.

The Macon Telegraph covers midstate election qualifying after the first day.

The Judicial Nominating Commission has opened the process for appointing a new judge to Superior Court for the Ocmulgee Circuit, which includes Baldwin, Greene, Hancock, Jasper, Jones, Morgan, Putnam and Wilkinson counties.

Nathan Roberts qualified for Floyd County Commission District One.

Hot races in Hall County will include the election for Sheriff, where the Republicna primary has five candidates qualified so far.

Former Camden County Sheriff Bill Smith, who attracted national attention when a grand jury investigated his use of federal money from drug seizures,

He purchased boats that some people wisecrack are his Camden County navy. Some purchases were more exotic. There was the $90,000 Dodge Viper for the sheriff’s DARE anti-drug program.

“The year we took this out to Las Vegas for the national DARE convention, it was the No. 1 DARE car in the country,” says Lt. William Terrell.

will run in an attempt to take back his old job, which he lost in 2008.

Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee had three opponents qualify against him in the Republican Primary. Bill Simon has announced that he will not be a candidate.

Nearly forty percent of Georgia children are overweight and obese, and the government is here to help.

“This affects all of us,” said Gov. Nathan Deal in a press conference Tuesday. “We must work together to improve the health of children in our state. Some suggest that we’re raising the first generation of American kids to have shorter life expectancy than their parents because of problems related to obesity. We can and will do better to promote healthy lifestyles.”

Mohawk Industries will expand its Summerville, Georgia plant, creating 500 new jobs.

“Mohawk is one of Georgia’s flagship Fortune 500 companies, and we are pleased to see its continued investments in our state leading to the creation of meaningful jobs in Summerville and other communities,” Gov. Nathan Deal said in a press release. “This expansion is a great indicator of the resilience of the carpet and floorcovering industry. Mohawk has Georgia’s full support for its continued investments in our state.”

Two Metro Atlanta OB-GYN offices have been set afire, and three others burglarized.

[P]hysicians who practice obstetrics and gynecology, however, worry that the incidents — three burglaries and two suspicious fires in all — weren’t a coincidence, but were committed by someone bent on retaliating against them for raising concerns about the so-called “fetal pain” bill that passed in March.

Porsche Cars North America, which is headquartered in Atlanta, announced that it will relocate its motorsport operation from Santa Ana, California to a new Experience Center in Carson, California.

The Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who cast the only vote against the license for Plant Vogtle’s new reactors, is retiring.

Last year, all four of his fellow commissioners — two Democrats and two Republicans — sent a letter to the White House chief of staff complaining about his management style. They told a House committee in December that Dr. Jaczko had withheld information from them, unprofessionally berated the agency’s professional staff and reduced female employees to tears with his comments.

But beyond friction with his fellow commissioners, he often found himself the lone dissenting vote on important issues. Among them were the speed with which American reactors should be reanalyzed and improved to incorporate the lessons learned from Fukushima Daiichi and whether licenses should be granted for new reactors before those changes were in the pipeline.

Green energy and your wallet

Notoriously liberal New York Times published survey results that suggest that Americans are willing to pay more for electricity in exchange for more use of “Green Energy.”

That willingness is fairly modest, to be sure. Analyzing a survey they conducted in 2011, researchers at Harvard and Yale found that the average United States citizen was willing to pay $162 a year more to support a national policy requiring 80 percent “clean” energy by 2035. Nationwide, that would represent a 13 percent increase in electric bills.

The willingness to pay was higher among Democrats than Republicans. More interesting, however, was that support dropped off when the definition of clean energy was expanded to include natural gas or nuclear power.

Republican Georgia Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton, who qualified yesterday for reelection wants to know if Georgia voters agree. Text “CHUCK” to 28748 or visit his website to let him know if you’re willing to pay 10% more for electricity in order to have more alternative energy sources used.

Pam Davidson, who took 47.7% of the GOP Primary vote against Lauren “Bubba” McDonald in 2008, qualified against incumbent Commissioner Stan Wise yesterday. Stan’s campaign notes that after losing the GOP Primary that year, Davidson endorsed the Democratic nominee, who openly supported President Obama’s election. Davidson has worked as a lobbyist for the Green Energy industry and ran in 2008 on a platform of more mandated green energy.

17
May

Senate Ethics Committee schedules new meeting regarding an ethics complaint

 

June 1, 2012 at 11:30 AM in room 328 of the CLOB.

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

Sumter County Grand Jury recommends removing Board of Education


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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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