Category: GaPundit Daily


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 23, 2015

On January 23, 1775, the Georgia Commons House elected three delegates to the Second Continental Congress.

On January 23, 1861, Georgia’s members of the United States House of Representatives resigned following passage of the Secession Ordinance; her Senators had resigned earlier.

On January 23, 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell was granted a medical degree from Geneva College in New York and became the first female M.D. in the United States.

On January 23, 1923, Georgia ratified the Twentieth Amendment to the US Constitution, which ended Presidential terms on January 20th following an election and those of Congress to January 3d.

On January 23, 1973, President Richard M. Nixon announced that terms had been reached to settle the Vietnam War, a document known as the “Paris Peace Accords.”

On January 23, 1983, The A-Team was shown for the first time on NBC.

Georgia Politics

Liberty Plaza

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 22, 2015

On January 22, 1733, James Oglethorpe arrived at Yamacraw Bluff, where the colony of Georgia would be founded.

Following the passage of Georgia’s Secession Resolution, six delegates, including both from Gwinnett County, signed a statement protesting the decision to secede.

On January 22, 1866, Georgia Governor Charles Jenkins signed a resolution by the legislature asking for federal troops to be removed from Georgia.

On January 22, 1959, Atlanta buses were integrated after a federal court decision.

On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court issued its 7-2 decision in the case known as Roe v. Wade.

GRTL 2015 March

Gold Dome

Thu Jan 22 8:00am – 9:00am
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Health Subcommittee – 341 State Capitol
8:00am – 9:30am
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Public Safety Subcommittee – 606 Coverdell LOB
8:00am – 9:30am
Joint AFY15- Appropriations General Government Subcommittee – 506 Coverdell LOB
9:00am – 11:00am
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Human Resources Subcommittee – 341 Capitol
9:30am – 11:00am
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Economic Development Subcommittee – 506 CLOB
12:30pm – 1:00pm
Governor Deal Addresses Joint Appropriations Committees – 341 Capitol
12:30pm – 2:30pm
Joint Budget Committee Hearings – Georgia State Capitol Room 341
1:00pm – 3:30pm
Joint AFY15- House Appropriations Human Resources Subcommittee – 341 Capitol

Greg Bluestein of the AJC brings us news that Gov. Deal has returned from England in time for his expected budget address today.

State economic [development] commissioner Chris Carr confirmed the team was, indeed, in the U.K. when he posted on Facebook a few minutes ago: “Back from the UK. Great trip. We’ll go anywhere and everywhere to bring jobs and investment to Georgia!”

Good news for all Georgians – unemployment dropped to 6.9% in December according to figures released by the state Department of Labor.

“We ended the year with our rate dropping below seven percent for the first time since last April,” state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a press release. “And, this was the first time in eight years that we’ve had job growth in December.”

State Senator Bill Heath spoke to about this year’s budget and the complexity of budgeting when both revenues and population are growing.

Georgia, overall, has done well in recent years, [Heath] said. Legislators planned financially for a 3.4 percent growth in 2014, but the state grew at 4.8 percent.

He said Gov. Nathan Deal hasn’t released the revenue projections for this year yet, but the $20.8 billion budget for this year is based on 4.3 percent general fund revenue growth.

Heath said growth is a good thing and is helping in Georgia’s economic recovery, but a high level of growth doesn’t equate with leftover money in state coffers.

“The problem is, the challenge is, that population growth and increased demand in existing programs easily gobbles up about five percent of growth,” Heath said.

For instance, growth requires more in education to accommodate more students. Heath said there are a number of similar services that eat up money when more people move to the state.

Tom Crawford gives the context of how the state budget fared during the economic recession.

During the 2008 General Assembly session, lawmakers passed what was then Georgia’s largest budget ever, $21.1 billion in state funds. Later that year, the housing and construction industries collapsed, banks started failing across the country, and a meltdown in the financial markets nearly crashed the economy.

The Great Recession had begun, which blew a gaping hole in tax collections and forced Georgia to start cutting back that $21 billion budget until spending dropped to about $17 billion a year. State revenues eventually recovered as the economy came out of its tailspin, but it was a very slow process.

The budget Deal just released shows expenditures of nearly $21.8 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, which would be the first time the budget total has exceeded what legislators adopted back in the winter of 2008.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer notes the top priorities in the budget.

The budget plan Gov. Nathan Deal proposed Friday is predicated on the confidence, and the evidence, that Georgia’s slow recovery from the recession is finally picking up, and that tax revenues are showing and will continue to show that progress.

Be that as it may, the governor’s budget is based on a projected 4 percent tax revenue growth over the fiscal year that begins in July. Consequently, some state functions will get particular attention.

Deal’s budget would fund almost 300 more caseworkers to investigate cases of abuse and neglect.The budget also continues the process of criminal justice reform that has highlighted the past two years, when the focus has been on alternative sentencing, rehabilitation and job placement rather than just warehousing.

Speaking of education, that’s where the biggest infusion of new money in this proposed budget is targeted.

A flashpoint has emerged at the nexus of healthcare and education spending, as the Department of Community Health considers dropping coverage for some education employees.

The Department of Community Health’s $13 billion budget for fiscal year 2016 would eliminate health insurance coverage for 11,500 “non-certificated’’ school personnel, such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

DCH Commissioner Clyde Reese, speaking Tuesday to the joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee, cited a “fairly large deficit’’ that the state incurs for covering these school workers. He put the figure at $135 million in fiscal 2014.

“We think a lot of these people will get insurance in other ways,’’ Reese told Democratic Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), who questioned the coverage move. He added that some may qualify for subsidies in the health insurance exchange.

Governor Deal has named members to an Education Reform Commission to study the state’s education system, including its funding formula, and provide recommendations intended to improve the system, increase access to early learning programs, recruit and retain high-quality instructors and expand school options for Georgia’s families.

State Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer will serve as a member of the 2015 GOPAC Legislative Leaders Advisory Board. Under the leadership of Congressman, later Speaker, Newt Gingrich, GOPAC played a major role in the development of Republican leaders that led to the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress.

Voting Underway for State House Runoffs

Early voting has started in the State House Runoff elections for the North Fulton seat formerly held by Lynne Riley, and the North Georgia seat formerly held by Mickey Channell.

Transportation Tax Poll

Landmark Communications and WSB-TV released a poll on public support for raising taxes to fund transportation infrastructure needs and the picture is bleak for those looking for more taxpayer dollars.

Of the 800 polled this week, just over 60 percent say they do not support increasing the gas tax to fund maintenance of existing roads and bridges.  It showed 23 percent would support it while 16 percent were undecided.

When asked if they would support a one cent statewide sales tax to raise the money, only 32 percent said they would while 52 percent said they would oppose it and 15 percent were undecided.

The numbers get a bit closer when asked if they would support an increase in the gas tax if was offset by a reduction in the income tax rate; 35 percent said they would support while 31 percent would oppose it and nearly 33 percent were undecided.

As for mass transit, the poll shows nearly 41 percent of voters believe some of those funds should be spent on mass transit improvements while 37 percent think they should only be spent on improving roads. The other 22 percent were undecided.

So 32 percent of respondents would support an additional one cent in the statewide sales tax while 52 percent are opposed. How does that compare to 2012 when the statewide T-SPLOST was on the ballot?

That’s not very far off from a June 2012 WSB poll that showed 38 percent of Metro Atlanta voters supporting T-SPLOST and 49 percent opposed. In July 2012, the AJC found 51% against versus 42% for the TSPLOST statewide tax measure.

If past history and current polling are any guide, the going looks rough for increased transportation taxes this year. Here’s the question that was not asked in the Landmark Communications/WSB poll, but is on the mind of every Georgia legislators under the Gold Dome. “Would you be more or less likely to vote to re-elect your state legislator if he/she voted to increase the gas tax.” A better way of doing it would be to include a battery of questions that included different forms the increase might take. Anyone want to commission a poll?


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 16, 2015

On January 16, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, prohibiting alcoholic beverages, when Nebraska became the 36th of the 48 states then in the Union to ratify the Amendment.

At 4:30 PM on January 16, 1991, the Persian Gulf War began as air attacks against Iraq launched from US and British aircraft carriers, beginning Operation Desert Storm.

On January 16, 1997, a bomb exploded in a Sandy Springs abortion clinic, later determined to be the work of Eric Rudolph, who also bombed Centennial Olympic Park in 1996, a lesbian bar in Atlanta in February 1997, and a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998.

Georgia Politics

Senator David Perdue will hold a Ceremonial Swearing-In this Saturday at the Federal Courthouse in Macon, beginning at 1 PM.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 15, 2015

An elected Provincial Assembly first convened in Georgia on January 15, 1751. The Assembly did not have the power to tax or spend money, but was to advise the Trustees.

The state of New Connecticut declared its independence of both Britain and New York on January 15, 1777. In June of that year they would decide on the name Vermont. Vermont would be considered part of New York for a number of years, finally being admitted as the 14th state in 1791.

The donkey was first used as a symbol for the Democratic Party on January 15, 1870 by cartoonist Thomas Nash.


Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Georgia Politics Fact of the Day

In 2014, the only incumbent Georgia state legislators who lost their seats in the General Assembly were State Reps. Charles Gregory (R-Marietta), Sam Moore (R-Cherokee), and Willie Talton (R-Warner Robins), who all lost to GOP challengers, and Senator Steve Thompson (D-Marietta) who lost his Democratic Primary. That means that most legislators need not fear General Election voters as their only real contest is their party’s primary.

The predictable result is a highly-partisan General Assembly. This also means that any “revenue enhancements” to pass must gain the support of a large number of Republicans who will stand for re-election among GOP primary voters who have a history of punishing anything that can be construed as a tax hike.

Here’s a clip from our discussion of transportation taxes last night on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Lawmakers in which this political dynamic plays a part.

Georgia General Assembly Legislative Schedule

The House and Senate agreed yesterday on the following schedule going forward:

Today will be Legislative Day Four and there will be no Session tomorrow.

No session next week to allow for budget hearing.

Monday through Thursday, January 26-29 will see Legislative Days 5 through 8.

Monday through Wednesday, February 2-4 for Legislative Days 9 through 11.

Monday through Thursday, February 9-12 will see Legislative Days 12 through 15.

Georgia Politics – State of the State

Takeaways from the State of the State

1. Medical marijuana for children with seizure disorders, decriminalization of the high-CBD/low-THC oil, and a panel to recommend how and whether to move further;

2. “Opportunity School Districts” to take over some failing school districts;

3. Department of Community Supervision drawing from the existing Departments of Corrections, Juvenile Justice, and Pardons and Paroles to improve the administration of paroles and probation across existing programs that have redundancies and inefficies;

4. Georgia has a need for massive additional transportation funding.

On transportation, Gov. Deal described the consequences of failure:

“If we should choose not to maintain and improve our infrastructure, economic development would stall, companies would be unable to conduct their business efficiently, commuters would waste more time and gas sitting in traffic, and no one would be satisfied,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert said after Deal’s speech that no options have been removed from consideration, even tax increases despite being unpopular.

But his reading between the lines told him Deal isn’t laying the groundwork for a tax hike.

“I will assure you that most of my constituents are not in favor of any tax increases, and it sounded like what the governor is suggesting – and which we’ll flesh out during this legislative session – is a more efficient use of the funding that we’re doing now,” said Cowsert, R-Athens.

Despite the confusing signals, the governor is offering sufficient leadership on the issue, according to Don Grantham, the Augusta-area’s representative on the State Transportation Board.

“It’s to the point where he’s not saying, ‘This is what you should do’ and ‘This is what I think.’ He is saying, ‘The options are there for you, and I support what you do.’ His support and information is going to be very helpful for us,” Grantham said.

Re-read those quotes from Senator Cowsert in light of the fact highlighted above about most legislators facing real opposition in party primary elections and you’ll understand the challenge that faces any bill to raise more revenue from state taxpayers.

We also have more reactions, in the form of audio interviews by Associate Editor Jeff Breedlove:

Rep. Allen Peake on Gov. Deal including HB 1 in the State of the State

Sen. Majority Leader Bill Cowsert on Cannabis Oil bill and Transportation

Rep. Jay Roberts, House Transportation Chair: On The State of the State Address


Elections & Job Openings

Three candidates qualified for the March 17 special election for Augusta Commissioner District 7.

Sean Frantom, starting his third year as development director for Ronald McDonald House Charities, joined Augusta businessmen Louis “Hap” Harris and Sonny Pittman in qualifying to seek the 21-month commission stint.

Avondale Estates has a contested special election for Mayor, as John Pomberg qualified for the race.

“I’m running for mayor for a number of reasons, because the position is available and it needs to be filled,” Pomberg said.

Pomberg joins Paul Brown, an architect who serves on the city’s Board of Appeals, in the race to replace former mayor Ed Rieker who resigned in October to pursue a university teaching job.

(If elected), my first day is to kind of keep the momentum on the annexation going and to keep people informed on that, as Mr. Giager has done so well in the few months he’s been in charge of that,” Pomberg said. “I’m also very interested to see how the redevelopment of the Fenner Dunlop property is going to shake out.”

Dr. Ricardo Azziz is expected to announce his resignation as President of Georgia Regents University in Augusta.

In the Special Election for House District 50 in Johns Creek, we received this last night regarding former Johns Creek City Council Member Kelly Stewart, who is in a runoff election:


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Contact: Lynn Doss, County Attorney, Fannin County, GA

Former Employer Warns Johns Creek Voters About Candidate for House Kelly Stewart

Candidate is “making false employment claims on her resume”

(Blue Ridge, GA)–“It has come to our attention that candidate for State House Kelly Stewart is currently and repetitively making false claims on her resume as to having been the County Administrator of Fannin County. Mrs. Stewart never held the role of County Administrator in our county, and her claim is patently untrue,” said Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss Wednesday.

“Fannin County has never in its history had a County Administrator form of government.   Stewart was an administrative assistant (a secretary) in the office of the Board of Commissioners, “said Doss Wednesday.

“Kelly Mull Stewart’s pattern of deceit was major contributing factor as to why she was terminated by the County in 1999,” said former Commissioner Yvonne McNelley, who served as a Fannin County Commissioner at the time.  Apparently, this pattern continues.

Stewart’s use of the job title, which she apparently has used for many years both to gain employment and to embellish her political resume in political campaigns, can be seen here:

and here:

Stewart also used the title of County Administrator on her official biography found on the City of Johns Creek website.

“We ended Stewart’s employment because of this issue as well as the fact that she had a pattern of abusing taxpayer dollars, including using taxpayer funds to make purchases that were clearly personal in nature,” said Commissioner McNelley.

“We investigated Kelly Stewart’s abuse of taxpayer dollars and found that she had made multiple unauthorized expenditures for personal items included self-help videos, unauthorized expensive meals, and gift purchases,” said Commissioner McNelley.

“Voters in Johns Creek can make their own decision. However, Mrs. Stewart may not make false claims or embellish her resume about her employment here, nor the reasons for her dismissal, without our setting the record straight,” said McNelley. “The actions of Stewart ultimately contributed to an election recall and defeat of then-Chairman Cline Bowers.”


Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for January 14, 2015

Representatives of three cities in Connecticut adopted the “Fundamental Orders,” the first written Constitution in an American colony and one of the first founding document to cite the authority of “the free consent of the people.”

On January 14, 1733, James Oglethorpe and the rest of the first colonists departed Charles Town harbor for what would become Savannah, and the State of Georgia.

The Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War on January 14, 1784. The Treaty was negotiated by John Adams, who would later serve as President, and the delegates voting to ratify it included future Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.

On January 14, 1835, James M. Wayne took the oath of office as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. A Savannah native, Wayne had previously served in the Georgia House of Represestatives, as Mayor of Savannah, on the Supreme Court of Georgia, and in Congress. His sister was the great-grandmother of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, and his home is now known as the Juliette Gordon Low house. When Georgia seceded from the Union, Wayne remained on the Supreme Court.

On January 14, 1860, the Committee of Thirty-Three introduced a proposed Constitutional Amendment to allow slavery in the areas it then existed.

Julian Bond was born on January 14, 1940 in Nashville, Tennessee, and was one of eleven African-American Georgians elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965. After his election, on January 10, 1966, the State House voted 184-12 not to seat him because of his publicly-stated opposition to the Vietnam War. After his federal lawsuit was rejected by a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the United States Supreme Court ordered Bond seated.

True story: Julian Bond was the first Georgia State Senator I ever met, when I was in ninth grade and visited the state Capitol.

On January 14, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, requiring Japanese-Americans, including American-born citizens of Japanese ancestry, as well as Italians and Germans to register with the federal Department of Justice. The next month, Roosevelt would have Japanese-Americans, including my grandfather, Joe Yamamoto, interned in concentration camps in the western United States.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Avondale Estates will hold a Special Election for Mayor on March 17, 2015 following the resignation of former Mayor Ed Rieker. The next Mayor will serve the balance of the term, which ends December 31, with an election to a full term to be held in November. Architect Paul Brown was the first candidate to qualify and more candidates may qualify between now and Friday. From,

We’re a very small city and with the development of the multi-use project and the issue of annexation, it’s going to change the perception of our city,” Brown said. “It will certainly set a standard.”

Brown said if he is elected he will work to enhance the city’s quality of life.

“My first priority is learning what the city’s priorities are as far as what the residents are concerned about, and adding to the quality of life,” he said.

Rieker, the dynamic and sometimes controversial former mayor, resigned in October with about one year left on his term to take a university teaching job. The former mayor is credited with bringing development into city’s downtown, but his style of leadership also brought him into conflict with some longtime residents wary of change.

Mayor Pro Tem Terry Giager will not run for Mayor, retaining his Council seat instead. Disclaimer: I’m working for Paul Brown’s campaign.

Johns Creek will hold Special Elections in November to fill the remaining terms of former City Council Members Brad Raffensperger and Kelly Stewart, who are in a runoff election for the House District 50 seat vacated by former State Rep. Lynne Riley. With Council Districts 2,4, and 6 up in the regular rotation, that will mean that four of six Council seats will be up in November.

State of the State

Governor Nathan Deal will deliver the State of the State address today at 11 AM. The speech will be carried live online by Georgia Public Broadcasting or you may watch it tonight at 7 PM on Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Click here to find your local GPB TV station.


At 7:30 PM, I’ll be on GPB with Bill Nigut, Democratic consultant Liz Flowers, Leo Smith of the Georgia Republican Party, and Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Kardashian Constitution. The show will also be live online at 7:30 PM today.

I’ll be at the State of the State and will be tweeting from my personal account @toddmr and you can also check-out the @gapundit account.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 13, 2015

Georgia History

On January 13, 1733, the ship Ann (sometimes spelled “Anne”) sailed into Charles Town harbor and was met by South Carolina Governor Robert Johnson and the Speaker of the Commons House of Assembly. Aboard the ship were James Oglethorpe and the first 114 colonists of what would become Georgia. Later that year they would land at a high bluff on the Savannah River and found the city of Savannah.

On January 13, 1959, Ernest Vandiver was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia.

On January 13, 1966, President Lyndon Baines Johnson appointed Robert C. Weaver head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), making Weaver the first African-American cabinet secretary in U.S. History.

On January 13, 1982, Hank Aaron was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

This day in 1987 saw the inauguration of Governor Joe Frank Harris to his second term in office.

On January 13, 1998, Governor Zell Miller presented his $12.5 billion FY1999 budget to the Georgia General Assembly, including $105,000 to provide CDs of classical music for every baby born in the state. According to the New York Times,

“No one questions that listening to music at a very early age affects the spatial, temporal reasoning that underlies math and engineering and even chess,” the Governor said[]. “Having that infant listen to soothing music helps those trillions of brain connections to develop.”

Mr. Miller said he became intrigued by the connection between music and child development at a series of recent seminars sponsored by the Education Commission of the States. As a great-grandfather and the author of “They Hear Georgia Singing” (Mercer University Press, 1983), an encyclopedia of the state’s musical history, Mr. Miller said his fascination came naturally.

He said that he had a stack of research on the subject, but also that his experiences growing up in the mountains of north Georgia had proved convincing.

“Musicians were folks that not only could play a fiddle but they also were good mechanics,” he said. “They could fix your car.”

Legislators, as is their wont, have ideas of their own.

“I asked about the possibility of some Charlie Daniels or something like that,” said Representative Homer M. (Buddy) DeLoach, a Republican from Hinesville, “but they said they thought the classical music has a greater positive impact.”

“Having never studied those impacts too much,” Mr. DeLoach added, “I guess I’ll just have to take their word for that at the moment.”

In 2003, on January 13 at the Georgia Dome, Sonny Perdue took the oath of office as Georgia’s second Republican Governor, the first since Reconstruction.

A little over a year ago, on January 10, 2013, the Atlanta Journal-Consistution released a poll of the Georgia Governor’s race that showed Nathan Deal with 47 percent to 38 percent for Jason Carter. The nine-point Deal advantage was as close as the AJC polling firm would come all year to correctly predicting the point spread in the General Election.

This is neither History nor Politics, but it’s cool nonetheless: Berry College announced that their Bald Eagle pair has two eggs in the nest.

Berry College Eagle Eggs

Click here to check out the Berry College Eagle Cams and learn more about this pair of majestic birds.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Gov Deal Inauguration

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 12, 2015

On January 12, 1775, St. Andrews Parish on the Georgia coast passed a series of resolutions that included approving the actions of patriots in Massachusetts, three resolutions critical of British government actions, and a renunciation of slavery. The resolutions also appointed delegates to a provincial legislature at Savannah and urging that Georgia send two delegates to the Continental Congress to be held in Philadelphia the next year.

Marvin Griffin of Bainbridge was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia on January 11, 1955.

After Republican Bo Callaway won the popular vote but fell short of a majority, the General Assembly elected Lester Maddox, the second-place candidate, as Governor on January 10, 1967 and he was inaugurated that day.

Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as Governor of Georgia on January 12, 1971.

The first inauguration of Governor Joe Frank Harris was held on January 11, 1983.

During a snowstorm, Governor Nathan Deal was inaugurated in the State Capitol for his first term in office on January 10, 2011

Georgia History Today

State Representative Michael Caldwell offers this scripture to begin the 2015 Session of the General Assembly:

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?

1 Kings 3:9 (New International Version)

And we offer in response,

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves….

Philippians 2:3-4 (New International Version)

Today’s ceremonies begin with a Prayer Service at Mount Paran Church at 9 AM, which you can also watch via live stream on the Church’s website.

With predictions of rain this afternoon, the inauguration of Governor Nathan Deal has been moved inside the Capitol. Guests with tickets to the inaugural will be seated in various locations inside the Capitol and other nearby buildings.

Early plans included ringing Georgia’s copy of the Liberty Bell to begin the ceremony. We don’t know if that will still take place.

Deal Inaugural Locations

The Georgia House of Representatives will gavel into Session at 10 AM. All legislators should remove any donation links, buttons, or pages from their websites, as members of the General Assembly are not allowed to accept contributions once Session has begun. Both chambers should adopt a resolution scheduling at least the next legislative day of Session.

What We’re Watching this Session

The Budget – the only legislation required by the state Constitution is the yearly budget. First, we’ll also see a Supplemental Budget to “true up” last year’s budget, reconciling the revenue predictions made in the legislature and the realities of state income. Then they’ll move onto the next Fiscal Year’s “Big Budget.”

Last year seems to have seen Georgia’s economy and state revenue picking up steam. While that’s good, the austerity cuts made over the past decade have left many needs in state and local government deferred. Those deferred expenditures are coming due, from maintenance of existing roads and bridges and state buildings, to raises for many employees, it will feel like everyone in the Capitol has a hand out. More requests will likely be denied than granted.

Transportation Funding – the Chambers of Commerce have made clear that their highest funding priority is transportation infrastructure, citing a study that shows roughly 1 billion to 1.5 billion in annual spending needs. It appears that the Chambers are poised to back increased funding, with the Georgia Chamber endorsing an increase in the federal gas tax.

The Chamber supports efforts to preserve the solvency of the Federal Highway Trust Fund.  Should Congress not successfully address this critical transportation funding measure, Georgia will see reduced and delayed reimbursements for needed transportation projects, putting some at risk for completion.  While the federal gas tax, currently 18.4 cents per gallon, has been the traditional source of revenue, it has struggled to keep pace with expenses as vehicles have become more fuel-efficient.    Both reauthorization of federal funding and an increase in the gas tax is necessary to keep our highways and transit systems efficient for transportation and commerce.


Tomorrow morning, bright and early, the Georgia Chamber will discuss state legislative priorities at their annual Eggs & Issues Breakfast.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (invited), Governor Nathan Deal, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and House Speaker David Ralston will provide a preview of the 2015 legislative agenda at this year’s event. Maggie Bridges, Miss Georgia 2014, will sing the National Anthem and Andy Stanley, Senior Pastor of North Point Community Church, will lead the invocation.

If your organization has two extra tickets for the Breakfast available, we’d consider taking them off your hands.

Medical Marijuana – State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) has become the patron saint of all who suffer from illnesses that might be alleviated by medicinal cannabis. Earlier versions of his bill would have allowed the CBD-rich cannabis oils not only for children with seizures, but also to adults and expanded the diagnoses for which it would be available. Governor Nathan Deal has announced he will support a more-limited version of Peake’s bill.

Channel 2 political reporter Lori Geary talked exclusively with the governor Friday about the new bill that would mean big relief to families with children who suffer from seizure disorders.

Deal told Geary he supports Peake’s efforts to offer immunity from prosecution for the families in those states who want to return home to Georgia with the medicine.

“It’s an important step. We recognize it may not be the last step,” Deal said.

In a statement from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s spokesman Ben Fry, he said, “The Lt. Governor believes that by working cooperatively the General Assembly can find a responsible solution that will provide much needed relief to the children and their families afflicted by these terrible conditions.”

A new poll from the Atlanta-Journal Constitution found that 84 percent of registered voters support the legalization of cannabis oil.

It appears that Peake will scale back his legislation to meet the Governor’s policy preferences.

Its sponsor, State Representative Allen Peake, says after lengthy discussions with Governor Nathan Deal, the bill will no longer include a model to grow and distribute medical cannabis in the state.

“Ideally, I would have liked to see both the immunity language and the grow model in this bill but the fact that we are getting full immunity and protection from prosecution for possession for families to have access to cannabis oil is a huge win and it will allow Georgia families to come home,” Peake told 13WMAZ.

Peake says Deal was clear they needed further research into a better regulatory system before Deal would sign off on the bill.

“It’s not as fast as I would’ve liked, but we had to do something that would pass the Governor’s desk,” Peake said Saturday.

The bill includes full immunity for those who bring back medical cannabis legally obtained from other states.

Beer and a ride home – we don’t drink alcohol, but if we did, it would be either Georgia-made Richland Rum or some locally-produced craft beer. Then we’d get a safe ride home via Uber or Lyft.

I’ve written more extensively about Georgia’s laws for beer and people distribution here.

Uber 20

Disclaimer: if you sign up with Uber using my code, your first ride up to $20 will be free, and I’ll get a free ride too. That’s not a special deal I’m getting for including this in my morning email – if you sign up for Uber, you can get the same deal when your friends sign up using your code.

Jim Galloway writes in the AJC Political Insider blog that Auto Dealers are going to be fighting Tesla this session.

Traditional car dealers are in the midst of a legal fight to push Tesla, the fledgling California electric car company, out of Georgia. Never mind that metro Atlanta is one of the hottest markets for electric vehicles in the nation.

Signs point to a parallel battle in the General Assembly. Last week, the National Automobile Dealers Association began trolling for sympathetic lawmakers. While Georgia dealers say they have “no plans” to revisit an anti-Tesla bill that failed last year, Tesla is preparing a defense. It has already hired one of the top lobbying firms in Atlanta.

Most Georgia car buyers don’t realize that their purchases are guided by state laws that presume a two-tiered system: Manufacturers sell to independent franchise owners, who sell to consumers. You can’t buy a Ford or Chevy or Nissan or Toyota directly from the manufacturer.

Tesla breaks that mold. It has no franchisees, and thus, the company maintains, Georgia’s restrictions on direct sales to consumers shouldn’t apply. The company does, however, currently observe a 150-car annual limit set by the state on “custom design” vehicles.

GADA spokesman Chip Lake says the fight isn’t over technology. “Automobile dealers are very supportive of electric vehicles. There are dealers all over the state that sell electric vehicles,” he said. “Auto dealers just believe Telsa is not complying with state law.”

That last paragraph is the real money-quote, not for the content of the statement, but for the fact that political consultant Chip Lake has been engaged to help the auto dealers protect their pocketbooks.

Healthcare Systems – This is a complex set of issues that all resolve to the question of money. Rural hospitals have been closing due to funding shortfalls. In addition, some rural communities have limited access to medical professionals, particularly when their population is highly dependent on federal programs whose reimbursement rates are in the range of 50 cents on the dollar. Certificates of Need for some new facilities require a healthcare provider to prove to the state government that their proposed service is necessary. The CON requirement may stifle some medical facilities and prevent lower cost options to some communities, but supporters say it’s necessary to protect existing healthcare facilities from competition that doesn’t have the same mandates. These issues will be tough nuts to crack, and no one expects any one-shot solution.

We’ll be discussing other issues in coming days. Stay tuned.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 7, 2014

Georgia and American History

Georgia voted for George Washington for President on January 7, 1789. Technically, they elected Presidential Electors who would later meet in Augusta and cast their ballots for Washington.

On January 7, 1795, Georgia Governor George Matthews signed the Yazoo Act, passed after four land companies bribed members of the General Assembly to vote for legislation selling more than 35 million acres of land for less than 2 cents per acre.

Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich (R) was re-elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on January 7, 1997. In the election for a second term, nine Republicans voted against the incumbent Speaker.

Runoff elections

Kelly Stewart (R) and Brad Raffensperger, (R) both of whom until recently served on the Johns Creek City Council, will meet in a runoff election for State House District 50. Because neither Stewart (44.06%) nor Raffensperger (41.89%) received more than 50% of the votes cast, a runoff election will be held February 3, 2015.

Many folks consider the Stewart v. Raffensperger matchup a continuation of the years-old rivalry between City Council factions that support or oppose the Mayor. If that’s the case, watch for the next four weeks to be heated.Continue Reading..


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for January 5, 2015

On January 5, 1734, the Trustees of Georgia ordered the return of 42 Jewish settlers who had come in 1733, primarily from Portugal, without the knowledge or approval of the Trustees. The Brits who sponsored the Jewish settlers refused and Georgia is home to the oldest Jewish settlement in the United States.

On January 1, 1751, the law prohibiting slavery in Georgia was repealed after an act passed by the Georgia Trustees the previous year.

On January 2, 1766, some Sons of Liberty marched on the Royal Governor’s Mansion in Savannah to “discuss” the Stamp Act, which required the use of stamped paper for all printing as a means of taxing the colonies. They were met by a pistol-toting Governor Wright. The next day, January 3, 1766, the Royal Stamp Master arrived at Tybee Island and was taken to the Governor’s Mansion. On that day, Georgia became the first and only colony in which the stamp tax was actually collected.

Georgia became the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution on January 2, 1788.

Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts became the first United States Senator to be censured by the body on January 2, 1811.

Delaware, technically at the time a slave state, rejected a proposal to secede from the United States on January 3, 1861.

The Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln went into effect in eleven Southern states on January 1, 1863, though parts of Virginia and Louisiana were exempt.

On January 3, 1973, Andrew Young was sworn in as the first African-American Congressman from Georgia since 1871.

Utah was admitted as the 45th state on January 4, 1896. Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959.

Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich was elected Speaker of the House on January 4, 1995, the third Georgian to wield the gavel. This marked the first time in more than forty years that Republicans controlled the House of Representatives.

On January 4, 1999, in DeKalb County, State Court Judge Al Wong became the first Asian-American judge in Georgia and the Southeast.

Capitol History: Delaware

The historic notes have been very popular, and this year we’ll try changing it up so as to not just repeat last year’s history. Each week, we’ll talk about a different state’s capital city and State Capitol, roughly in order by their date of admission to the United States.

Delaware Old State House Dover

Delaware was the first State to ratify the United States Constitution on December 7, 1787. The Old State House (above) in Dover, Delaware was built between 1787 and 1792 and served as the seat of state government until 1932.

Today, the Delaware state legislature meets in Delaware Legislative Hall, also in Dover, opposite the Old State House. Legislative Hall was completed in 1933, with wings added in 1965 and 1970 to provide office space for legislators.


Click here for online tours and more information on the Delaware Legislative Hall.

Georgia Politics

One week from today, at 2 PM on January 12, 2015, Nathan Deal will be sworn-in for his second term as Governor of Georgia at 2 PM in Liberty Plaza across from the State Capitol. At 9 AM on that day, a prayer service will be held at Mount Paran Church.

A story by the Associated Press talks about Governors’ inaugurals across the nation, and focuses on how they’re paid for, discussing Georgia’s inaugural.

Aides to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said he planned to disclose the donors to his swearing-in activities. His inauguration includes a concert from country star Alan Jackson and Atlanta-based Coca Cola producing a special bottle.

Deal, a Republican, was criticized in 2011 for not detailing how his inaugural money was spent, but he did disclose donor names afterward. AT&T and Cigna, a health insurer, were among those making contributions.

He and other governors throwing big parties reject suggestions of influence-buying and say private donors are buying nothing more than a good time for everyone.

“This privately-funded gala celebration is a way to thank Georgians in every corner of their state for their support of the governor and the rest of our statewide elected officials,” Deal spokeswoman Jennifer Talaber said.


The annual Eugene C. Tillman/Ron Crews Prayer Convocation Service with Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, will be held Sunday, January 11, 2015, 2:30 PM to 4:30 PM in the North Wing of the State Capitol.

Lest we forget that elections have consequences, the Gwinnett Daily Post took a look at legislation that went into effect January 1, 2015.

Additional fees for reckless driving

During the Nov. 4 election, voters ratified a constitutional amendment approving additional fees for reckless driving convictions. The fees — per Act 522 (H.B. 870) — are earmarked for the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund and go into effect on Jan. 1.

Tax exemptions for agricultural machinery

Effective Jan. 1, 2015, and applicable to all taxable years thereafter, Act 533 (H.B. 983) clarifies what agricultural machinery and equipment is exempt from state sales and use taxes.

Collection of debts owed to courts

Under Act 478 (H.B. 1000), those owing debts to all trial courts in the state are subject to having their state income tax refunds docked in order to settle those debts.

Article V convention delegates

In the event two-thirds of the states call for an Article V convention — a convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution — Georgia will be ready. Act 528 (H.B. 930) specifies how delegates will be selected. It also allows for the creation of an advisory group to assist the delegates with legal questions regarding any potential amendments.

Year-end campaign disclosure reports are rolling in ahead of a January 7th end to the grace period for filing. The Rome News-Tribune took a look at their local delegation’s reports.

Total spending on the 2014 election for United States Senate in Georgia topped $74 million dollars.

Candidates and outside groups spent more than $74 million on the nearly two-year derby to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, according to final tallies from the Federal Election Commission.

The Democratic and Republican state parties combined to spend an additional $12.7 million over the election cycle, much of it funneled in from the national parties to coordinated campaigns for all of each side’s candidates.

“What we saw in Georgia is what is becoming very commonplace in Senate contests around the country,” said Joel McElhannon, an Athens-based consultant who worked with the Georgia Republican Party.

“High-stakes Senate contests are generating this kind of money,” McElhannon said. “It’s the new reality of campaigns in America after the Citizens United decision (by the U.S. Supreme Court) that you’re going to have enormous outside spending, particularly when you have something as important as control of the U.S. Senate at stake.”

Nationwide, Georgia’s U.S. Senate race was the fifth-most-expensive – according to tallies by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics – with North Carolina leading the pack at $118 million.

In that same article is an interesting little tidbit about how television advertising can be bought in some markets.

The Perdue campaign devoted about 10 percent of its television budget to targeting individual voters who have Dish or DirecTV.

A typical television buy is a bet that the voters you want to reach are watching “Wheel of Fortune” or the Falcons game at a specific time, while also sending a lot of other people your message. But this new approach allows campaigns to take their voter file and match it with satellite customers, then send them the ad — regardless of what programs they are watching.

As an added bonus, campaigns only pay for the ads the voters actually watch.

Perdue’s top consultant, Paul Bennecke, said the tactic was especially useful for television markets that overlap from Georgia into neighboring states, such as Tallahassee, Fla.

“It’s highly cost-efficient because you’re only reaching households you want to reach,” said Bennecke, who said this was the first time the technology has been employed in Georgia.

“It is feeding them based on them actually viewing the TV spot,” he said, “instead of just hoping they are watching the program.”

Addressable advertising is primarily available today on Dish and DirecTV, though Comcast is currently rolling it out. If, like me, you recently received a notice from Comcast that they’re sending you new equipment, this is probably part of the rollout.

Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, is ready to deliver addressable ads on a household level and will rollout the service fully this year.  The ads will be the two-minutes that the cable programmers provide MSO’s within each hour.

These are generally local ads.  Comcast is not delivering the network-level ads on an addressable basis.

Who’s the Boss in DeKalb Schools?

Newly-elected DeKalb County School Board Member Stan Jester has refused to be fingerprinted by the DeKalb County School Board because he’s not an employee of the school system, for whom fingerprinting and background checks are mandated, and he doesn’t trust the system’s ability to ensure his privacy. Jester sent a statement to WSB:

“I do not object to a thorough background check or being fingerprinted.  In fact, last week I sent the Chair a copy of my background check completed by the Dunwoody Police Department.  Additionally, I have already made arrangements to have my fingerprints taken by the DeKalb County Police Department tomorrow morning to address anyone’s concerns.  I will be putting my reports online and they will be made available for anyone to see.  I challenge the rest of the board members and administration to do the same.  I do reject the manner and rationale of the board Chair in dealing with this issue.  It has ranged from inaccurate to intimidating.  Our children deserve better.  Rather than try to bully or embarrass other board members, I will take great care to do what is in the best interests of children and taxpayers.”

Given that this dispute was obviously leaked by someone in DeKalb County Schools to Rachel Stockman at WSB-TV, who then filed an Open Records request for emails between Stan Jester and Melvin Johnson, who chairs the board. Stan Jester has made the entire chain of emails available to the public on his website. Here are some great quotes:

I cited for you both the DCSD policy (DCSD Policy GAHB) and Official State Code of Georgia (§ 20-2-51) that explicitly indicate that employees cannot serve as board members. Board policy and state law are both absolutely clear in this regard.

Subsequently, you responded with more rationales for obtaining my digital fingerprints. My summary of those three rationales:

(1) It has been practice and no one has ever complained.

(2) State law prevents anyone with a “conviction of a felony involving moral
turpitude…” from serving;

(3) Pursuant to DCSD Policy GAK(1) criminal background checks, including fingerprinting, are conducted on every individual employed by the District and of volunteers approved to serve students directly; and

(4) You are concerned about the overall safety of our schools and without some sort of confirmation that I am not a criminal, you earnestly believe that safety is somehow compromised.

Allow me to address each rationale:

(1) Practice is not policy or law. Board members are not employees of the district according to state law and policy. Simply because no board member objected to the procedure in the past doesn’t alienate me from my right to do so. I know of at least one other board member who did object.

(2) As you noted, Georgia law has qualifications for elected office, including not having a “conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude”. You must also be aware that every candidate had to submit an affidavit attesting to meeting these qualifications. I certainly did so.

(3) We have established that I am not an employee.

Your third rationale for obtaining my digital fingerprints referenced the policy that said employees and volunteers were fingerprinted. I certainly cannot be considered a volunteer as members of the BOE are elected and compensated.

(4) As a parent with three children in public schools, no one is more committed than I am to ensuring that schools are safe. I also remain committed to mitigating the risk of theft of personal information and as a matter of principle I do not provide more data than is required.

I am sure you are aware of the security breaches within large retailers (Target, Home Depot) and the recent breach into Sony. You may also recall that Georgia’s own Department of Labor exposed critical information on thousands of Georgian’s in 2013.

And in 2014, an employee with the Registrar’s Office at The University of Georgia stole student data. I am increasingly concerned about the data collection on students within school districts. One cannot be too careful in this regard.

As a technology professional, I take exception to your reliance on the district’s practices regarding the privacy and “disposal” of my data. You do realize that the fingerprinting method is digital and one can almost never “dispose” of digital data.

Jester has also made public a criminal background check he had run by the Dunwoody Police Department, redacting his social security number. It turned up absolutely nothing. This morning, he will also be fingerprinted at his request by Dunwoody Police and the report will be posted publicly on his website as well.

I have a suggestion: all the Board Members, including Mr. Johnson should submit to voluntary and periodic urine tests. It would be fair to redact any results showing the use of medications for which the member has a valid prescription at the time. Let’s make this a literal peeing contest, not just a media-enabled figurative one.

I think the biggest issue here is that procedures like these attempt to put the cart before the horse by treating elected Board Members as employees of the Department. You see this issues not just at local school boards, but at the Georgia Department of Education. The concept is similar to that of “captive agencies,” where regulatory bodies become so influenced by the industry they regulate as to adopt many of the views of the industry itself.

Elected Board of Education members and State School Superintendents come and go, but the bureaucracy ensures it’s own long-term survival by surrounding the elected officials by “experts” to guide the officials in doing the bidding of the bureacrats. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.

The reason we elect the State School Superintendent and local Boards of Education is not to simply have another layer of bureaucracy – the reason is to provide taxpayers and voters some measure of control over the inexorable growth of yet another government agency with, in the case of Counties, the power to raise their taxes. School districts treating Board Members as employees is a bad start and shows that some in Georgia government don’t understand the role of elected officials in our Constitutional form of government.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 31, 2014

On December 31, 1695, a British law taxing windows went into effect, causing many property owners to brick-up some windows to avoid paying the tax. This may be the first recorded instance of the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in response to a tax increase. See also: Revolution, American.

The Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park closed on December 31, 1895.

On December 31, 1999, the Panama Canal was turned over to Panama pursuant to the Torrijos-Carter Treaties signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.

Georgia Politics

Coincidental timing that the Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding released it’s report on the day before New Year’s Eve as the University of Georgia Bulldogs prepared to take the field? Or was it the Gold Dome version of “Take the Trash Out Day” in which politicians release news they don’t want folks to pay attention to on a day it’s unlikely to receive much attention?Continue Reading..