Category: Georgia Public Service Commission

31
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for August 31, 2012

Thelma and Louise are pit-type sisters who were terrified, emaciated, and abandoned across the street from a dog rescue group, where they are now living, waiting for a permanent home.

The girls have quickly learned their routine and are very obedient. Louise enjoys training, learning good manners and tricks while Thelma prefers to receive love. The girls require a special home with people who understand their breed and have no other pets. They will be the most grateful, loyal and loving companions!

Louise is white with brown spots and Thelma is brown with white spots. In the first picture, the girls are demonstrating their polite “sit.” The second picture is of Louise “praying” which is a complex trick one of our camp counselors taught Louise.

Many folks are apprehensive about Pit-type dogs, and an equal number think they’re the best breed around. I don’t know that there is a truth about these dogs other than to suggest you consider each one as an individual, and with any breed, it can be helpful to adopt from an experienced rescue organization that has spent time with your prospective dogs, and is able to advise you about their individual temperment and behavior.

Yesterday I received two emails from readers wondering how many of the dogs we feature get adopted. I don’t know, but here are a couple of things I do know. The yellow lab featured yesterday got rescued. The daughter of a reader was prepared to pick up Monday’s lab mix but the shelter was closed; the dog was rescued but I’m not sure by whom. Riley received ten inquiries to the rescue group from the mailing list and three completed adoption applications.

So I believe that including these dogs makes a difference in some of their lives, and I believe that seeing so many beautiful dogs will encourage some others to rescue rather than buy when they are ready for their next dog. But the scale of the problem is huge, with an estimated 300,000 dogs and cats euthanized each year in Georgia. That’s not acceptable. Next week, we’ll highlight some folks who are working to reduce the number of abandoned dogs and cats by raising money to fund low-cost spay and neuter in Georgia.

 

 

 

As a bonus, here’s Louie, a 17 pound 3-4 month old lab/border collie mix who is available for adoption from Walton County Animal Services. He and his brother Huey were turned in as strays, and Huey’s been adopted, but Louie here is still waiting to find his home.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Texas has had a rough week in the federal court system. First, a three-judge panel in Washington rejected their redistricting maps for Congress and the state legislature. Now, the state’s voter ID requirement has been struck down.

A three-judge panel in Washington unanimously ruled that the law imposes “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor” and noted that racial minorities in Texas are more likely to live in poverty.

Thursday’s ruling almost certainly prevents the Texas law from going into effect for the November election, but state Attorney General Greg Abbott said he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court “where we are confident we will prevail.”

In the Texas case, the Justice Department called several lawmakers, all of them Democrats, who said they detected a clear racial motive in the push for the voter ID law. Lawyers for Texas argued that the state was simply tightening its laws. Texas called experts who demonstrated that voter ID laws had a minimal effect on turnout. Republican lawmakers testified that the legislation was the result of a popular demand for more election protections.

[Judge David] Tatel, writing for the panel, called the Texas law “the most stringent in the nation.” He said it would impose a heavier burden on voters than a similar law in Indiana, previously upheld by the Supreme Court, and one in Georgia, which the Justice Department allowed to take effect without objection.

The decision comes the same week that South Carolina’s strict photo ID law is on trial in front of another three-judge panel in the same federal courthouse. A court ruling in the South Carolina case is expected before the November election.
The ruling comes two days after a separate federal three-judge panel ruled that Texas’ Republican dominated state Legislature did not draw new congressional and state Senate district maps “without discriminatory purposes.”

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has certified all the primary and primary runoff results for state races, but certification of federal races remains open until August 31st because of federal requirements for overseas absentee voting.

Continue Reading..

1
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 1, 2012

This little low rider looks like a cross between a blue tick coon hound and a basset and is available for adoption from Cobb County Animal Shelter. He is said to have a great, friendly personanilty, is up-to-date on his shots, and will be neutered, microchipped and tested for heartworms before he goes home. His ID is 546592, he is in run 850 and he weighs 49 lbs.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

This is far from exhaustive, as I was up too late last night watching election returns, but I’ll delve deeper into some of the happenings in yesterday’s elections, including ballot questions and local races over the next few days.

Two things became clear in last night’s elections: T-SPLOST was soundly rejected and most GOP incumbents were reelected.

T-SPLOST passed in three districts, Central Savannah River, River Valley, and Heart of Georgia regions will see their sales taxes go up when the measure goes into effect.

Chuck Eaton beat Matt Reid for the Republican nomination for PSC District 3 by a margin of nearly 60-40. Stan Wise beat Pam Davidson for PSC District 5 by 56.5-43.5.

Eaton said:

“I am grateful to the people of Georgia for allowing me the opportunity to represent the Republican party in November.

I also want to thank Governor Deal, Lt. Governor Cagle, Attorney General Olens and all the grassroots activists who supported our campaign.

As we move toward November, we will continue the discussion of whether Georgia wants lower rates, reliable utilities, and more good jobs, or whether we wish to change course and pursue a radical agenda that will cost more money from consumers, and make our state less competitive for new jobs.”

Wise said,

“We’ve made a commitment over the years of promising just a few things – reasonable rates, reliable generation and clearly we’re building an infrastructure for the future, whether it comes from increased natural gas infrastructure in the state or growing nuclear transmission for generations to come.”

Congressional Primary Election

Ninth Congressional District – Runoff between Doug Collins (41.80%) and Martha Zoller (41.14%). The math geek in me notes that both of those percentages are evenly divisible by 11; the politics geek notes that this means three more weeks of dueling press releases piling up in my inbox.

Line of the night goes to Doug Collins.

Asked about the nail-biting returns, Collins said, “we’ve got plenty of nails left.”

As in the election, Martha came in second for line of the night by a slim margin,

“Well, I didn’t get crushed tonight,” she said. “I did pretty darn good.”

Twelfth Congressional District appears to be headed for a runoff between Lee Anderson (34.22%) and a player to be named later. Currently, the Secretary of State’s website shows Rick Allen with a 558-vote lead over Wright McLeod, but it also indicates that not all precincts are reported, so this may change .

At midnight, Augusta businessman Rick Allen was leading Evans lawyer Wright McLeod by about 500 votes, but neither was conceding the second-place finish that would place one of them in the runoff. The Asso­ciated Press didn’t call the runner-up results because of the closeness of the race.

The margin is close enough to guarantee McLeod a recount if it holds in the official count, The Asso­ciated Press said.

Senate Primary Elections

Senate District 6 – appears to be Hunter Hill with 52% over his opponents, but irregularities in voting, which included voters assigned to incorrect precincts and paper balloting in midtown Atlanta may mean that the race is not truly called for several days.

Senate District 7 – Tyler Harper beat Mark Hatfield, who was trying to move up from the State House.

Senate District 9 – Don Balfour cruised to an easy reelection with nearly 63% against two challengers.

Senate District 18 – Cecil Staton appears to have squeaked out a victory in a race where the candidates were separated by a single point, or roughly 200 votes.

Senate District 21 – Chip Rogers appears to have beaten Brandon Beach by 59-41

Senate District 25 – Johnny Grant defeated by Burt Jones 47-53.

Senate District 27 – Jack Murphy appears to have been reelected by less than half-a-point, a 117 vote margin.

Senate District 31 – Bill Heath (45.3%) meets Bill Carruth (41.1%) in a runoff on August 21.

Senate District 44 – Gail Davenport (33.9%) came in second to challenger Gail Buckner (42.4%) and is probably at a disadvantage headed into the runoff.

Senate District 47 – Frank Ginn wins.

Senate District 52 – Chuck Hufstetler appears to win without a runoff with a 54-30 margin over David Doss.

Selected House Races

House District 2 – Jay Neal over challenger Steve Tarvin with a 57-43 margin.

House District 16 – Trey Kelley wins over Jennifer Hulsey by 58-42.

House District 20 – Challenger Michael Caldwell beats incumbent Charlice Byrd by 53-47.

House District 21 – State Rep. Sean Jerguson reelected over Scot Turner.

House District 26 – Geoff Duncan appears to have a 55-vote margin over former State Rep. Tom Know.

House District 34 – Charles Gregory defeats incumbent State Rep. Judy Manning.\

House District 44 – State Rep. Don Parson reelected.

House District 45 – State Rep. Matt Dollar reelected.

House District 46 – State Rep. John Carson wins his re-nomination for his first full term but faces Kevin “Funny Mustache Hipster” West in the General. It is notable that Carson’s GOP opponent took more than twice as many votes in losing 68-32 than Democrat Kevin West took in his uncontested primary.

House District 56 – “Able” Mable Thomas handily defeated Ken Britt in the Democratic Primary, winning reelection by a 65-35 margin.

House District 57 – Democrat incumbent Pat Gardner appears to have whipped Rashad Taylor by a 63-37 margin.

House District 117 – Regina Quick beats Doug McKillip by 64 votes.

In Athens-Clarke County, Quick claimed almost 63 percent of the nearly 3,200 votes tallied. For McKillip, Tuesday’s race came less than two years after he switched to the GOP just weeks after his re-election as a Democrat in what was then an exclusively Athens legislative district.

McKillip led balloting in Oconee County (56 percent), Jackson County (63 percent) and Barrow County (66 percent).

House District 118 – Spencer Frye defeats incumbent Keith Heard in the Democratic Primary, while Carter Kessler won the GOP nomination.

House District 58 – Simone Bell won the matchup against fellow incumbent Democrat Ralph Long.

House District 63 – Ronnie Mabra leads into the runoff with 49.2%.

House District 66 – Bob Snelling, (49.63%) a former State Rep. will be in a runoff against Mike Miller (27.17%).

House District 75 – Democrat Mike Glanton appears to have knocked-off incumbent Yasmin Neal by 56-44.

House District 81 – Chris Boedeker over Carla Roberts by 70-30.

House District 97 Brooks Coleman whipped Robert McClure, a 20-something Ron Paul supporter by 70-30.

House District 103 Timothy Barr appears to have won the Republican Primary, but voting problems appear to have occurred in some early and absentee ballots.

House District 109 – Dale Rutledge beat incumbent Steve Davis.

In one of the more contentious legislative races, state House Rep. Steve Davis (R-District 109), lost to businessman Dale Rutledge by more than a 2 to 1 margin, 3,942 votes to 1,761, in the Republican Primary. There is no Democratic challenger.

House District 121 – Barry Fleming makes a return to the state house as a Republican, the only one of four attempted state house comebacks to clinch a win so far.

House District 167 – Jeff Chapman, a former Republican state senator will return to the Capitol as a new member of the lower house.

House District 180 – Jason Spencer beats Adam Jacobson with a 262-vote margin.

Other Notable Runoffs

Cobb County Commission Chair Tim Lee faces former Commission Chair Bill Byrne in a runoff. Grab some popcorn, this one’s going to get nasty.

In Gwinnett County Commission District Three, incumbent Mike Beaudreau took 47.34% and lands in a runoff, most likely with Tommy Hunter.

Kathy Schrader took more than 43% in the election for an open seat on the Gwinnett County Superior Court, more than double the vote total of second-place finisher Tracey Mason Blasi.

Emily Brantley and Pam Britt appear headed for a runoff for Gwinnett State Court, narrowly edging former State and Superior Court Judge Richard Winegarden out.

30
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 30, 2012

Payday is a 4-year old yellow lab mix boy who is being left at Walton County Animal Shelter by his owners. $40 brings him home with you with a microchip, $15 voucher for spay/neuter, and up-to-date vaccinations.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today’s Georgia Pundit is both late and short because, in the ultimate irony, Georgia Power has chosen today to trim some trees I’ve been complaining about for years. Power outages mean no internet at home.

Tomorrow is election day. That will mean a brief respite from robo-calls on Wednesday until the runoff campaigns get cranked up. I’ll spend Tuesday night not going to any victory parties but watching the returns on the new Election Night Reporting system on Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s website.

The pro-gambling, and pro-T-SPLOST “Neighbors for a Better Cherokee” have put these signs up all over the county in support of Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, who faces Brandon Beach in the Republican Primary tomorrow. That’s what these signs mean, right?

For a recap of issues in the Rogers v. Beach race, the Cherokee Tribune has a profile of the election.

In Athens, some local Democrats are suggesting that fellow Dems cast Republican ballots this year for the purpose of voting against Doug McKillip, who switched from the Democratic party to the GOP.

Former Gwinnett County Commissioner Kevin Kenerly has asked the bankruptcy court overseeing his proceeding to dismiss the case.

According to the motion to dismiss the bankruptcy, Kenerly “has resolved or is well underway with the process of resolving problems and issues with his secured creditors and there is very little unsecured debt in his case.”

In addition to his private creditors, county records show Kenerly owes nearly $21,000 in late property taxes, penalties and interest on his Braselton home and an adjoining lot.

In a robocall supporting Martha Zoller in the Ninth Congressional District, Sarah Palin apparently mispronounces Zoller’s name. Or maybe it’s a clever ploy to get the AJC to write yet again about Martha Zoller being endorsed by Sarah Palin.

27
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 27, 2012

Pen 231 at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter holds this cute Lab mix, who has been misclassified as a “Pibble.” She’s accurately described as playful and friendly.

Tomorrow, a fundraiser will be held for the Society of Humane Friends, who run the spay/neuter clinic at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter and support the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Operation Second Chance Jail Dogs ProgramThe event is Saturday, July 28th from 10 AM to 3 PM at Gwinnett County Animal Control, located at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville, and will feature a raffle, bouncy house for kids, hot dogs, hamburgers, and soft drinks. Saturday is also the last day for discounted adoptions at the Gwinnett Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Owners of convenience stores tied to illegal gambling have contributed thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Muscogee County District Attorney Julia Slater, Muscogee County Sheriff John T. Darr, Marshal Greg Countryman and Municipal Court Judge Steven D. Smith among other candidates.

The contributions have raised questions as employees and relatives of campaign supporters — and at least one contributor himself — have been ensnared in a broadening Columbus police crackdown on illegal cash payouts from electronic gaming machines.

Businesses raided for alleged gambling since 2008 have given at least $28,000 to local candidates over the past four years, including nearly $10,000 to Slater and about $6,000 to Darr, according to an analysis by the Ledger-Enquirer.

The officeholders said they had not considered returning any contributions after the gambling raids, noting the defendants haven’t been convicted. They insisted they have never given or been asked for preferential treatment in exchange for the contributions.

Atlanta Unfiltered writes that Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers is accused of working on mailings for casinos and phone-handicapping services after he was elected to the General Assembly.

Chris McClurg, soon to be unsuccessful candidate for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge has been named as the biggest offender for political campaign signs in the rights-of-way.

Gwinnett code enforcement officers said the “biggest offender award” goes to Chris McClurg who is running for superior court judge.

Police said of the 150 illegal signs they picked up, 90 belonged to McClurg.

McClurg also has a voting record that includes 2004 Democratic Primary and Primary Runoff elections, and the 2008 Democratic Presidential Preference Primary.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp ruled that Augusta Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders is eligible to run for Superior Court.

A formal challenge to Saunders’ candidacy was filed in May by Augusta attorney Jack Long. Long claimed that Saunders should not be allowed to challenge Chief Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet for his seat in the Augusta Circuit because state law bars anyone who has defaulted on tax obligations from holding office.

Kemp, who has the final say in such election challenges, decided to adopt Judge Michael M. Malihi’s July 16 ruling, which said although Saunders owes federal taxes, his plan to pay the IRS under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy settlement meets the standard for a payment plan required by state law.

SOS Kemp also announced that his agency’s website will feature a new elections return tool for the primary elections.

“Our Agency’s new ENR system is a great resource for Georgia voters,” said Kemp.  “Information will be distributed efficiently, be interactive, and be able to be broken down to the precinct level.”

Would-be state Senate candidate Garry Guan has dropped out of the race after his residency challenge. Senator Curt Thompson is now unopposed.

Kemp rejected residency challenges against Republican Carla Roberts in HD 81 and Brooke Siskin in HD 95, in both cases adopting the recommendations of the Administrative Law Judge who took evidence.

Ashley Fielding of the Gainesville Times writes about the Republican Primary in the Ninth Congressional District.

One calls herself a “firebrand.” Another repeats that he’s the only “consistent conservative.” And the third rarely sits down without mentioning the U.S. Constitution.

A seven-month campaign for the Republican nomination to run for the newest U.S. House seat in Georgia, which once drew five Republicans from three counties, culminates Tuesday with just three candidates on the Republican ballot.

Those left are a former state representative from Hall County, a retired principal from White County and a former conservative radio talk show host, also from Hall.

If neither Doug Collins, Roger Fitzpatrick nor Martha Zoller is able to garner more than 50 percent of the votes cast, the two with the most support will face off in an Aug. 21 runoff.

The winner of the election will face Democrat Jody Cooley of Gainesville in November’s general election to represent all or parts of 20 counties in Northeast Georgia in Congress.

Former Governor Zell Miller has endorsed the reelection of state Senator Cecil Staton, according to a website owned by Cecil Staton

Senator Miller said, “Shirley and I have known Catherine and Cecil Staton for many years. I don’t do this frequently, but I feel so strongly about this race that I wanted to let you know that I’m supporting Cecil Staton for re-­‐election. I know a conservative champion when I see one.

Don’t let anyone fool you. Senator Staton is pro-­‐life, pro-­‐family, and pro-­‐business. He is a tax-­‐cutter, a budget-­‐balancer, and a job-­‐creator. We need him to keep fighting for our conservative values under the gold dome. I encourage everyone in the six counties of the 18th district to join me in supporting your Senator-­‐-­‐Cecil Staton.

An ethics campaign finance complaint has been filed against Fulton Magistrate Judge Melynee Leftridge over campaign expenditures. According to the filer of the complain,

“The most troubling of these allegations is an apparent elaborate scheme to funnel campaign contributions to a company responsible for maintaining a website www.pirouettesexy.com … the Pirouette Dance Company, whose name was changed to Pirouette Company with the Secretary of State in February 2012, currently maintains a website featuring pictures of scantly clad women and a current schedule of dates and fees,” [complainant Charlie] Statdlander said in a statement.

Other clients of Pirouette include DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, Democratic State Rep. Pat Gardner, State House candidate Ronnie Mabra, Gail Davenport, DeKalb County State Court Judge Dax Lopez, and Citizens for Transportation Mobility. Sound like a legitimate political consulting practice to me, but that does give me some ideas for my website.

Chuck Eaton, running for reelection to the Public Service Commission, is supported by Charlie Harper, editor of Peach Pundit.

Much of the decisions that the PSC makes are handcuffed by Georgia law and an increasing appetite for  the General Assembly to regulate utilities via every more friendly regulations codified as state law.  Senate Bill 31 continues to resonate as an example, with the legislature, not the PSC, deciding to pre-fund Georgia Power’s return on investment for two new nuclear reactors at plant Vogtle.

One of Chuck Eaton’s strong points is that he is intellectually curious.  He is a person who is willing to admit he doesn’t have all of the answers, and solicits opinions regularly on topics that interest him.

He has a keen grasp on the various risks associated with coal as the EPA continues to push coal powered electric plants toward extinction.  He understands that while natural gas prices are at historic lows right now, the history of the fuel is one of price volatility which could lead to wide variances in power costs.  He understands that nuclear is cheap once the power plants are operational, but getting a plant built after 30 years since the last plant was built will present unique challenges.

Eaton prefers a balanced approach, with Georgia not putting all eggs in one basket.  He’s generally pragmatic about the needs of the state, and balances the needs of Georgians with the requirements that those the PSC regulates are entitled to earn a profit as defined in state law.

While not someone I always agree with, Eaton is someone who can explain and is willing to defend his positions based on fact and underlying law.  That’s a rarity in politics.

In short, I trust him.  That’s also rare.  He’s an incumbent that gets my vote.  That’s getting more rare.

Eaton is also supported by Governor Nathan Deal, Congressman Tom Graves, Attorney General Sam Olens, and numerous other Republicans.

T-SPLOST opponents outnumbered supporters at a debate over the sales tax hike last night at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said her displeasure with the proposal came last year when the toll lanes were activated along Interstate 85. She said her inquiries into the issue, which actually increased congestion, caused her to realize the problem with the bureaucracy.

And, as far as the project list is concerned, she added that a proposal to convert Gravel Springs Road to an interchange angered her Buford constituents.

While debates in the Legislature lingered for years before the current Transportation Investment Act was adopted, Unterman said leaders would be anxious to take on the issue again in January if voters say no to the proposal.

“That’s the risk,” she said of politics intervening in the Legislature, “but I still say that risk is better than dumping billions of dollars into a system that is not working.”

Also in Gwinnett, T-SPLOST opponents are questioning whether county funds are being used to support the T-SPLOST.

Partnership Gwinnett, funded by businesses and government agencies, has won national acclaim for efforts to attract jobs to metro Atlanta. But on Thursday citizens groups questioned whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.

They also were skeptical of claims the Chamber of Commerce hasn’t used public money to support the transportation sales tax measure on Tuesday’s ballot.

Some Hispanic leaders joined Mayor Kasim Reed in supporting the T-SPLOST; a group called “Georgia Hispanic Republicans” are unanimously opposed to T-SPLOST. Make of it what you will.

The American Communist Lawyers Civil Liberties Union seeks to intervene in a lawsuit over Sumter County Board of Education district lines.

The Georgia Ports Authority is seeking to intervene in the federal lawsuit challenging the dredging of the Savannah River to improve access to the Port of Savannah.

The Georgia Ports Authority wants to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging the $650 million deepening of the Savannah River shipping channel saying its contractual and economic interests are at risk.

The authority also asked a judge to block South Carolina’s Savannah River Maritime Commission from entering the suit, saying that would expand the action and simply bring in extraneous issues.

The authority wants the river shipping channel deepened to handle larger ships that will be routinely calling when the Panama Canal is deepened in 2014. It filed the motions on Wednesday and U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Thursday gave the other parties in the case until Aug. 6 to respond.

The lawsuit filed by environmental groups contends the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs a South Carolina pollution permit before the deepening work can begin. The suit alleges toxic cadmium from river silt will be dumped in a dredge spoils area on the South Carolina side of the river.

The suit was brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Savannah Riverkeeper, based in Augusta, Ga., as well as the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation.

Forsyth County Elections

Senate district 27 pits Republican Senator Jack Murphy against Forsyth County Tea Party  founder Steve Voshall.

House district 26 is a contest between formers: former State Rep. Tom Knox and former Florida Marlins pitcher Geoff Duncan.

Walker Bramblett, the incumbent Chief Magistrate Judge meets former Chief Magistrate Barbara Cole. In 2008, Cole stepped down as she did not meet then-new requirements for years as a member of the State bar, but she now has enough time as a lawyer to mount a comeback.

The race for County Coroner features a retired medical examiner, a funeral director and a nurse, seeking to succeed Lauren McDonald, who is running for Sheriff.

The Republican primary for County Commission District 2 will decide whether incumbent Brian Tam or one of his challengers, Dennis Brown and Scott Padis, take a seat on the Commission, as no Democrat is running.

County Commission District 4 will also be decided in the Republican primary between incumbent Patrick Bell, and challengers Tim Hubbard, Charles Meagher, Cindy J. Mills and Bill Mulrooney.

One of those candidates for District 4, Cindy Mills, had an ethics complaint filed against her because she failed to list her role as an officer in the Forsyth County Parks Foundation on her Personal Financial Disclosure. She amended her PFD that day.

Holly LaBerge, spokeswoman for the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, said the complaint will not be pursued until after the July 31 election.

“If it was filed within 30 days of an election, we can’t do anything with it until the election is over by law,” LaBerge said.

Click Here

State Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Forsyth) was appointed chair of the Jekyll Island State Park Oversight Committee, on which he currently serves as a member. Tough duty.

A former Forsyth County deputy who was terminated during his probationary period claims his firing was because he posted on Facebook that he supports Duane Piper, who is challenging Sheriff Ted Paxton in the Republican Primary.

Ends & Pieces

Rocky Creek Solar Farm in Upson County is the first facility of its type in Georgia, and is now producing up to 1 megawatt, enough to power 300 homes. Georgia Power purchases electricity produced at the facility, with an additional 18 megawatts under development.

Effingham County Sheriff’s Office took second place in its division in a national law enforcement highway safety challenge.

Rome-based Bubba will compete in dock diving at the Summer at the Rocks event in Stone Mountain this weekend. The event runs today through Sunday. Bubba is a four-year old chocolate Lab who enjoys food, licking himself, and belly rubs.

Model High School in Rome is holding it’s annual band camp. This is not a one time occurence, but annual.

26
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 26, 2012

Pen 107 at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter houses this young, male Shepherd mix. Shepherd mix is what the shelter calls him, I’d say he looks like the other parent was a Golden Retriever. He’ll be available for adoption beginning Sunday.

On Saturday, a fundraiser will be held for the Society of Humane Friends, who run the spay/neuter clinic at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter and support the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Operation Second Chance Jail Dogs Program. The event is Saturday, July 28th from 10 AM to 3 PM at Gwinnett County Animal Control, located at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville, and will feature a raffle, bouncy house for kids, hot dogs, hamburgers, and soft drinks. Saturday is also the last day for discounted adoptions at the Gwinnett Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today, we start with congratulations to Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Billy Ray and Atlanta lawyer Lisa Branch, who have been named to the Georgia Court of Appeals by Governor Nathan Deal.

Judge Ray will join the Court on July 30th and Branch on September 1st. Judge Ray previously served as a Republican member of the State Senate and was the founder and presiding judge of the Gwinnett County Drug Treatment Court.

Speaking of Gwinnett County Superior Court, two of the candidates out there have gotten involved in a knife fight involving mail, robocalls, and allegations of ongoing corruption.

Harsh to be sure, but the assertions of fact appear to be true. Then there’s the robocall, which states:

“This is an important alert for Gwinnett voters.”

“Superior Court Judge candidate Tracey Mason Blasi was appointed to be a zoning judge by Shirley Lasseter, who has pled guilty to bribery charges.”

“Today it was announced that Lasseter’s sentencing for bribery has been delayed to allow the investigation to continue into corrupt public officials.”

“It would be irresponsible to elect a candidate such as Tracey Mason Blasi to a judgeship in Gwinnett, especially considering the connection to corrupt public officials”

“We don’t know where this investigation will go, and we don’t need to risk letting Miss Mason Blasi be elected as a judge.”
Please remember to vote No to Gwinnett corruption and vote No to Tracey Mason Blasi on July 31st.”

That call may just violate Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct promulgated by the Judicial Qualifications Commission if it was paid for by a candidate for Superior Court. I’d give 50/50 odds that a complaint is filed.

Canon 7(c) states that candidates for judicial office

“shall not use or participate in the publication of a false statement of fact concerning themselves or their candidacies, or concerning any opposing candidate of candidacy, with knowledge of the statement’s falsity or with reckless disregard for the statement’s truth or falsity.”

Tracey Mason Blasi fired back with her own Robocall, using the voice of Gerald Davidson,

“Chris McClurg chose to mail false statements about one of the most reputable attorneys in this county, Tracey Mason Blasi.”

“Mr. McClurg knows his comments are untrue and misleading but sent them anyway.”

Here’s where it gets interesting: I think that robocall by Gerald Davidson might also violate Canon 7 if it was done by the Blasi campaign, unless she can point to a statement of fact on Chris McClurg’s mailer that is untrue. Odds on a JQC complaint being filed concerning this call are also 50/50.

Blasi also sent out an email blast in which she writes:

Some of my opponents have stooped to unfounded personal attacks on me but they cannot attack my proven record of service in Gwinnett County.

Seriously, Tracey, you shouldn’t be slinging mud at all of your opponents, when you know (a) that Chris McClurg or his candidates did the mail and robocall; (b) that one of those other candidates will be the next Superior Court Judge in Gwinnett County; and (c) that Governor Deal will soon be appointing another Superior Court Judge in Gwinnett and the Judicial Nominating Commission is unlikely to look kindly upon this.

DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson has apologized for an alcohol-and-grief induced tirade at the Tanqueray Lounge.

“I was a little despondent and upset over my wallet,” Watson said in a phone interview with the AJC. “I have apologized to the constituents and I will apologize to the officer.”

Watson admitted he was in no shape to drive.

“I had a moment where I was trying to console myself and I had a few drinks. I at least had enough sense not to drive myself home,” he said. “Hopefully voters will forgive me that.”

Before leaving the club, the incident report states, Watson engaged in a profanity-laced tirade directed at two women he believed had pilfered his wallet, which contained $200. He acknowledged he did not witness them steal it.

“I’m going to act a [expletive deleted] fool in the morning,” said Watson, as quoted in the report. “One of those two [expletive deleted] stole my wallet.”

Parker wrote that he encouraged Watson to “behave like a public official,” but the commissioner continued to direct slurs toward the two women.

One of them, Sheneeka Latessa Bradsher, of Hampton, Va., was briefly arrested for disorderly conduct after ignoring Parker’s warnings to calm down, according to the report.

But the officer chose to give her a warning because, “I did not feel I would be justified in arresting Ms. Bradsher for disorderly conduct and not arrest Mr. Watson.”

In Forsyth County, a supporter of Sheriff Ted Paxton is being investigated for a roadside beautification program sign-stealing spree.

Channel 2 News reports that one of Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton’s campaign workers is being investigated for stealing more than 30 campaign signs belonging to Paxton’s opponents.

Authorities said they responded to a domestic dispute at Joni Owens’ home and saw a stack of signs outside her garage. Paxton’s campaign manager said Owens has since been fired from the campaign.

This is the same person who had earlier been accused of stealing signs for Senator Jack Murphy’s opponent. Senator Murphy emailed me to say he had no idea about the sign-stealing and I believe him. The fact that the person accused of sign-stealing was found with the signs of ten different candidates looks more like a crazy person and less like a campaign tactic.

Some of the specific allegations in the ethics Campaign Finance Commission complaint against Senator Chip Rogers include:

that Rogers “masterminded a scheme to violate the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act by causing the transfer of $140,000 from the Georgia Republican Senatorial Trust to a political action committee (PAC) he caused to be created.” Manuel claims those funds were then used “primarily for his own benefit in the form of in-kind contributions to his campaign.”

[Complainant Colleen] Manuel also alleges that Rogers violated an additional campaign finance rule by soliciting a vendor, “instructing that vendor to mail on behalf of candidates including himself, suggested specific messaging and then funded this vendor’s operation.” She said the value of the mailing is alleged to exceed $2,500, violating the Section 21-5-41 of the state Campaign Finance Act, which limits maximum allowable contributions. “The Rogers PAC filed disclosures showing that $72,552 was spent to benefit Rogers,” she said, referring to the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion (GRSCP) PAC.

Manuel said in the complaint that Rogers hired Michael Luethy, who registered the GRSCP PAC (an independent committee) on May 18. The Senate Caucus trust then transferred a total of $140,000 to the GRSCP, she said.

Manuel said the GRSCP PAC then paid for at least six mailings expressly advocating the re-election of Rogers.

Rogers’ only response was to say the complaint was not newsworthy.

“Surely a last-minute bogus ethics complaint from a member of my opponent’s campaign is not worthy of news coverage,” he said.

Senator Cecil Staton has also drawn a complaint.

The complaint has been filed by State Senate candidate Dr. Spencer Price.

Price says the senator got an illegal campaign donation in the form of mailed campaign material. Price reported the alleged violation to Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

The complaint says that Staton received a contribution from the a group allegedly funded by the Georgia Republican Senatorial Trust, which wasn’t reported on his campaign disclosure. Staton says his campaign wasn’t responsible for the mailings, it was not from the trust, and that he properly reported campaign contributions.

“The Supreme Court ruled a long time ago that third party organizations can spend what they want to that’s their first amendment right, the only problem would be if there had been any cooperation between our campaign and that organization and their has been none, absolutely none,” says Staton.

Staton called the complaint frivolous, and a distraction from the real issues surrounding the senate race. The senator maintains there’s no merit to Price’s allegations.

Click Here

Obama for America must not like gay people or they wouldn’t have spent $62 at an Atlanta Chick-fil-A, right?

Jane Morrison is running for Fulton County State Court, hoping to become one of the first openly-lesbian judges in Georgia.

Morrison has her own civil practice where she works full-time, but she is also a part-time solicitor for the cities of Sandy Springs and Johns Creek. She’s also served as a judge on a part time basis for Atlanta Municipal Court as well as a part-time Fulton Magistrate judge.

Morrison said she also has experience with criminal defense when early in her career she represented defendants in Atlanta Traffic Court.

“What I bring is a broad base of experience,” said Morrison, who is endorsed by Georgia Equality and the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats.

Wait, I guess she actually is an openly-lesbian judge already.

Michael Caldwell drew 45% of the vote against State Rep. Charlice Byrd in 2010 and is back for a second bite at the apple. The winner of the Republican primary faces Lillian Burnaman, the only Democrat running against an incumbent in Cherokee County.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp ruled that Ronald Mabra is a resident of House District 63 and can stay on the ballot, rejecting the findings of an Administrative Law Judge that Mabra was not a resident and therefore not qualified to run for State House.

 

Ends & Pieces

Willie Nelson will headline a concert at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth on October 20th, 2012 as part of the Railroad Revival Tour.

Performers will arrive in a vintage train for the Oct. 20 concert at the museum located at 3595 Buford Hwy. About 8,000 to 10,000 fans are expected to attend the Saturday concert.

“The Railroad Revival Tour is a concert tour which seeks to focus attention on the importance of railroads to our nation’s past, present and future by holding concerts at railroad-affiliated locations and touring by train rather than by the more familiar bus,” acording to Jeffrey Hildebrand, marketing manager for the museum. “The Southeastern Railway Museum is pleased to have been selected as the kickoff location for the 2012 concert series.”

Concert attendees will be able to tour the museum and see the special train assembled for the tour, Hildebrand said. “The museum will gain considerable publicity, and we hope to be able to turn many of the music fans into repeat visitors to the museum,” he said.

The Duluth City Council in a called meeting Monday (July 23) approved a special-use permit request by David Conway representing the Dripping Springs, TX-based tour to allow loudspeakers to operate within 1,000 feet of residential areas near the railroad museum from 2 to 11 p.m. for the one-day concert.

There is no way I’m missing this show. Hope to see you there. Early bird discount $55 tickets go on sale at 11 today.

Canon has announced a great new camera called the EOS M, which takes the innards of an 18 Megapixel DSLR and puts them in what is essentially a point-and-shoot body with interchangeable lenses.


The EOS M is expected to be available in October and will sell for $800 in a kit that includes a 22mm f2 lens. It will also mount existing Canon EOS lenses with an available adapter. When yours arrives, let me know, because I’d like to see and play with one of these.

25
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 25, 2012

Pen 236 houses a Lab mix puppy and Pen 221 a Rottie mix, at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. The Gwinnett Animal Shelter is offering discounted adoptions through July 28th.

Lawrenceville Pit Bull Terrier (pronounced “pibble”) Titan was awarded third place in the Humane Society’s national Dog of Valor contest for saving his owner’s life twice.

“I think he won because he saved her life, which is just amazing,” DuBois said. “There is so much negative press about these dogs and there are incidents where unfortunate circumstances happen, but overall, the breed is an amazing breed. They are made not to be gentle by humans. (HSUS) thinks he deserves all the credit that he gets because he is an example of what the breed really is.”

Titan, a 5-year-old pit bull, saved owner Gloria’s life last July. Her husband, John, was set to leave for work when Titan got between him and the door and began whining, then running up and down the stairs.

John finally walked upstairs and discovered Gloria lying on the ground bleeding from her head. Doctors later said she had suffered an aneurysm and a fractured skull.

Just recently Titan came to the rescue again when he barked to wake John up at 4:30 a.m. When John went downstairs he found that Gloria had fallen in the bathroom, breaking her hip and another bone.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 25, 2012

A complaint has been filed with the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission alleging that mailings by the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion PAC aimed at reelecting Senator Chip Rogers violates campaign rulesManuel alleges Rogers, along with other incumbent Republican state legislators, benefited from the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion Political Action Committee.

The PAC has come under scrutiny as it is actually registered as an independent committee, but has been raising money to promote incumbent senate Republicans faced with primary challengers.

Manuel did not return repeated phone calls and emails by press time.

Rogers said he hasn’t received any notice from the commission about Manuel’s complaint and criticized the complaint as not factual.

[Rogers's opponent Brandon] Beach has also been slapped with an ethics complaint.

Macedonia resident Jeff Whitmire filed the complaint with the state on Monday, alleging Beach has not accounted for advertising he’s done on Facebook and in the My Woodstock Monthly magazine.

Whitmire alleges the magazine was printed and distributed before the June 30 campaign disclosure deadline.

He also alleges Beach’s Facebook advertising began in May, and those disclosures were not reported for the June 30 reporting deadline.

“To be honest, I’m fed up with Washington and I’m fed up with crony politicians,” [Whitmire] said. “And I don’t like this Chicago style politics. I’m looking to see if there’s something bigger behind this.”

But that’s not all: apparently, you can’t trust political direct mail in that race either.

Both campaigns are also accused of engaging in mudslinging.

Rogers’ campaign has been accused of attacking Beach on his role in the Georgia 400 tolls.

A mailer produced by the anti-TSPLOST organization Traffic Truth is utilizing false newspaper headlines, noting the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce CEO has “failed to stop the Georgia 400 tolls” and “Beach sponsors party for largest tax increase in Georgia history.”

The first made-up headline refers to the upcoming regional transportation sales tax referendum voters across the state will consider on July 31.

One mailer criticizes Rogers for his involvement in the controversial loan he received to remodel the Oglethorpe Inn in Calhoun.

It also slams Rogers for his alleged connections to John Letcher Edens, the man Rogers and Graves transferred the loan to.

Edens, along with his son Jonathon Edward Edens, were both arrested and charged with theft in Cartersville last July.

Rogers referred to the mailer as “Chicago-style gutter politics” that “shows the desperation of my opponents and the lack of any positive ideas for Georgia.”

Rogers also said he believed the flyer contains false accusations and plans to “consider all potential legal action after the conclusion of the political campaign.”

Brian Laurens, a political consultant to Senator Rogers, accuses Beach of sending out robocalls and transmitting Laurens’s cell phone number as the Caller ID number.

Brian Laurens, owner of Brikel Communications and Consulting, is accusing Beach of using his cell phone number to call voters.

Laurens said he discovered the alleged robo calls were made when he returned home from church on Sunday.

The Holly Springs resident said the calls began to pour in around 2 p.m. and went through 8 p.m. Sunday.

“The call said something about Chip Rogers being for the TSPLOST and voting for it and was portrayed as coming from a registered LLC, (the) Grassroots Conservatives of Cherokee County,” he said.

Laurens added that “deductive reasoning” led him to believe the calls were the work of Beach and his campaign.

He noted he believed he received well over 100 phone calls.

“I’m sorry this type of dirty politics and shenanigans have entered into the electoral process of Cherokee County,” he added.

Laurens has regularly done campaign consulting work for Rogers.

I read elsewhere that the number of return calls Laurens received was in the range of 700-800. Maybe I’m confused.

In the race for Gwinnett County Superior Court, Republican Senator David Shafer has endorsed Duluth attorney Kathy Schrader, who currently serves as a Municipal Court Judge for Duluth and Sugar Hill, and previously was appointed by both Governor Sonny Perdue and Governor Nathan Deal to the board of the Governor’s Office for Children and Families. Shafer said:

“Kathy Schrader will make an outstanding addition to the Gwinnett Superior Court. Her qualifications are second to none, and she is the best choice for protecting our children and families.”

“That’s why I’m asking you to join me in voting to elect Kathy Schrader as our next Superior Court Judge.”

The race for Ninth Congressional District continued to be the other nastiest one out there. Martha Zoller received the endorsement of Sarah Palin.

“If you agree that it’s time our elected officials stopped talking at us and started listening to us, then I hope you will join me in supporting Martha Zoller….

“Martha is running against the establishment, which, as we know, is an uphill battle; but with all of our support she can win. In Congress, she’ll vote to cut spending, lower taxes, and repeal Obamacare. In addition to being pro-life and a firm defender of our Constitution, including our Second Amendment rights, Martha is a strong fiscal conservative….”

On Facebook, the Collins campaign reacted:

“While we admire and respect Governor Palin, Martha’s liberal talk threatens our conservative values. But don’t take my word for it, go to www.seemarthasayit.com and you can see and listen to her yourself. Whether it’s her pro-abortion, pro-civil unions or other liberal views, Martha Zoller would be wrong in Congress. Better to have a true Georgia conservative like Doug Collins. The endorsements he’s received from Governor Zell Miller, Speaker Ralston and the NRA, along with the faith shown in him by Governor Deal show he shares the values of people who know and love North Georgia the most.Æ

The Gwinnett Daily Post profiles the races for Senate District 9, featuring Senator Don Balfour, and the District 47 challenge to Senator Frank Ginn.

Over the past 20 years, Forsyth County has gone from primarily Democratic to strongly Republican, though political leaders disagree on the root cause.

“This county used to be solid blue, blue enough to be purple,” said Sharon Gunter, chair of the Forsyth County Democratic Party. “Then the Civil Rights Act passed, and it got a little redder. And then there were some incidents in the county where the few black people who did live here left.”

From the 2010 Census, the county’s population of 175,511 consisted of 4,510 African Americans, or about 3 percent.

For the Forsyth County Tea Party Chairman, Hal Schneider, it’s the county’s demographics that have all to do with the Democratic Party’s small presence.

“Forsyth County is very rural,” Schneider said. “It is historically very white and it is an affluent county. These things add to the fact that you have a lot of Republicans, a lot of conservatives in this county.”

However, Ethan Underwood, chair of the Forsyth County Republican Party, said the political shift in Forsyth was due to the liberal stance associated nationally with Democrats.

“I think the Democratic National Party became more liberal,” he said. “I don’t think that Forsythians agreed with the views on social issues, add to that, the growth of Atlanta. Many self-employed folks who are paying taxes and paying employees are the ones who live in Forsyth County, and those folks tend to vote Republican.”

Underwood said that the Republican Party normally ranges between 79 to 86 percent of the vote during an election.

Glen Williams, a candidate who will be defeated by State Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick in the HD 93 Democratic Primary, says he was threatened for speaking at the Gwinnett County Commission hearing about a proposed rezoning.

Williams said the applicant’s attorney, Simon Blue, confronted him in the corridor outside the auditorium, threatening to sue him.

“I was accosted and verbally threatened with a lawsuit,” Williams told commissioners during a public comment period later in the meeting. Several neighbors also told the board what they witnessed, in an attempt to have a record of the altercation.

Chuck Eaton’s reelection campaign to the Public Service Commission received a boost from Congressman Tom Graves, who recorded a robocall endorsing Eaton, whom Graves has known since they both were members of the Coverdell Leadership Institute.

“Chuck is the strong conservative we need at the state level working to prevent Obama’s radical green agenda from driving up our gas and electric bills. Chuck Eaton is the only conservative in the race and just last month he voted to lower our electric rates.”

Richie Smith, who was booted from the ballot by Brian Kemp vows to appeal the ruling that tax issues made Smith ineligible to run for State House district 151.

In a statement released Tuesday through the Georgia House Democratic Caucus, the 41-year-old Smith said he would appeal the disqualification to Fulton County Superior Court.

“My opponent switched parties after promising to be a Democratic representative, and that’s not right,” said Smith, a bus driver from Lake. “I will fight to remain on the ballot and to stand for the citizens of District 151. If they want to defeat me, it will be at the ballot box.”

Lamar Brand of Blakely filed paperwork challenging Smith’s candidacy over what Brand said were back taxes owed by the candidate. Smith failed to show for a hearing on the matter.

A candidate for Terrell County Magistrate Judge says as part of his campaign that he wants to eliminate the position.

Beth Hilscher was sworn in as the newest member of Suwanee City Council, filling the seat vacated when Jace Brooks resigned to run for County Commission.

A poll shows support for video lottery terminal gambling, according to WXIA 11 Alive.

Because we don’t have enough politicians, a summer camp in Washington is training high school girls for future careers in politics.

Running Start, a nonprofit group that encourages women to get involved in politics at an early age, hosted about 50 girls recently in Washington, introducing them to female role models and instructors and teaching them the basics of networking, fundraising, public speaking and other skills essential to political success.

“It’s really important for young women to be involved in politics,” said Sophie D’Anieri, a 17-year-old high school senior from Troy, N.Y. “I think there is some discrimination against women that makes it difficult to run.”

“I’m sort of weird for my age to be this interested in politics,” said 17-year-old Rachel Hansen, of Philadelphia, who aspires to run for president. “I think girls my age aren’t thinking about the future that much. They’re just thinking about what’s going on Friday night.”

Bless her heart, that Hansen girl sounds just like Josh McKoon must have at that age. I’m voting for Tammy Metzler.

The Albany City Commission passed a property tax increase, also known as “another nail in T-SPLOST’s coffin.”

A former Minnesota Senate Aide who was fired for having an affair with his female boss is suing because he says women who do the same thing become lobbyists receive different treatment.

Brodkorb filed his lawsuit against the state of Minnesota, the Minnesota Senate and a top Senate administrative official, claiming an invasion of privacy, defamation and gender discrimination, among other things. The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 – a standard figure in state civil lawsuits – but his attorneys have said they hope to get at least $500,000.

The lawsuit was filed after Brodkorb and his attorneys said they obtained a right-to-sue letter from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Brodkorb’s team declined to make the document available.

The lawsuit said the episode caused him “emotional distress” and “similarly situated female legislative employees, from both parties, were not terminated from their employment positions despite intimate relationships with male legislators.” Brodkorb’s lawsuit said he should have been afforded the chance to transfer jobs.

Ethics

State House Ethics Commission Chairman Joe Wilkinson (R-Sandy Springs) released a list of 49 candidate for State House who signed the “Gift Cap Pledge” but have failed to abide by existing campaign disclosure laws.

“It is disappointing, ironic and hypocritical that 49 candidates for the Georgia House of Representatives who signed a petition to impose a $100 lobbyist gift cap on lawmakers are themselves in violation of ethics and campaign finance laws.

“These candidates have failed to file, or filed late, their required Declaration of Intent (due when they first qualified to run), their Personal Financial Disclosure (due 15 days after qualifying to run), and their Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report (which was due July 9),” says state Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R- Sandy Springs. “All either have already been fined or expect to be fined shortly as required by Georgia law.”

“These are major violations by both Democrats and Republicans. These candidates should pay their fines and file the required reports immediately if they truly believe in full, open and immediate transparency,” the chairman of the Georgia House of Representatives Ethics Committee says. “On the one hand they seek to promote so-called ‘ethics’ by endorsing a meaningless ‘gift ban’ yet on the other hand are behaving unethically by flouting current laws.”

Click Here

“They should certainly pay the fines mandated by law before the July 31 primaries,” Wilkinson continues. “I would remind them that the fines cannot be paid with campaign funds and that the first $25.00 of each fine goes to fund the state’s Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.”

“These current laws are tough and, unlike the proposed $100 lobbyist expense cap, actually work. Unfortunately, caps lead to non-reporting and underground lobbying. We’ve seen this in other states. If they worked and were not merely a public relations gimmick, they would have been put in place years ago,” Wilkinson says.

Reacting to the AJC story about legislative candidates who face tax issues, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer opines that candidates should first follow the law before seeking to write new ones.

when more than 50 candidates for Georgia elective offices have had a total of more than $1 million in tax liens filed against them, you have to wonder whether some of the people who want to make and administer Georgia’s future laws — especially tax laws — know enough or care enough about the current ones.

24
Jul

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


“Joelle” is the dark brindle mixed breed shown with her best friend. She is spayed, up-to-date on her shots, house-trained and knows how to use a doggie door. She weighs about 40 pounds and sheds very little. She is available to foster or adopt through Angels Among Us Rescue.

Ethics

Yesterday, the AJC reported that Governor Deal’s 2010 campaigned settled all outstanding complaints before the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission. Their initial story reported that two major issues remained unresolved, but they eventually updated it eight hours later to reflect what actually happened – the “major” charges were dismissed including those related to private air travel, and the campaign paid administrative fees for filling out some paperwork incorrectly.

The Gainesville Times, in an AP story written by Errin Haines, correctly notes:

A commission investigation concluded that the law on the aircraft fees issue was vague, and staff attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein said she did not feel a violation of the rules had occurred.

Check out how the mainstream media works and fails to acknowledge its role in a witch hunt against a popular Governor. From the AJC yesterday:

But it was the complaints regarding the campaign’s air travel and Deal’s legal bills that had brought the most attention over the past several years.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in September 2010 that Deal’s campaign had paid a company that he partly owned $135,000 for the use of an airplane. Rome-based ethics watchdog George Anderson later filed an ethics complaint that accused Deal of financially benefiting from campaign expenditures.

But the ethics commission unanimously said Monday that there was no probable cause to believe Deal violated the law that prohibits such a personal benefit.

Ten months ago yesterday, I wrote 2500 words that analyzed the law applicable to Georgia campaign finance and concluded that the laws the AJC cited in its article did not apply, and even if they did there was no violation.

Richard Halicks, an editor with the AJC then came onto the website where I originally published my analysis and claimed that I got some of my facts wrong. Pot, kettle. I refuted point-by-point that editor’s claims and he never replied again.

Now the Campaign Finance Commission has dismissed the charges related to aircraft, and the AJC’s initial reporting was wrong. Is anyone really surprised anymore?

So let’s review the AJC’s behavior on this issue:

  1. Run a story claiming some nefarious misdeeds because you don’t understand what’s going on.
  2. Report on some subpoenas that were supposedly prepared but never issued and that no one but the reporter and the staff who allegedly prepared them have seen and do not release copies of the alleged subpoenas.
  3. Whitewash any criticism on blogs.
  4. Report yet another baseless complaint by George Anderson of Rome as though he doesn’t have a history of filing baseless ethics complaints and refer to Anderson as a “government watchdog.”
  5. Leverage the unconfirmed subpoenas into allegations that the staff members who allegedly prepared them were fired over the content of the subpoenas.
  6. Misstate for hours the outcome of the case when the complaints are dismissed and take no responsibility for the year-and-a-half witch hunt you prompted.

Click Here

From Lori Geary at WSB-TV, we now have an idea where the millions of dollars of wasted money being spent on the T-SPLOST campaign are coming from: corporate coffers.

Documents show Stockert’s group has raised $6.5 million so far, including $250,000 each from the Georgia Association of Realtors, Georgia Highway Contractors Association, Georgia Power, The Coca-Cola Company, Yancey Brothers and Cox Enterprises, the parent company of WSB-TV.  Clear Channel donated $300,000 in billboard space.

Opponents of the sales tax claim big business and contractor who stand to gain from the road and transit projects are pumping money into the campaign.

Stockert told Geary about 20 percent of the money raised came from contractors who would benefit directly from the projects, but he disagrees about their motives.

“They’ve been decimated along with the rest of the construction business in this region with the financial downturn. They’d like to put people back to work,” Stockert said.

Take note: Cox Media, which owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, gave a quarter-million dollars to pass the T-SPLOST.

But you won’t learn where all the pro-T-SPLOST money comes from because the “education” component of the tax hike campaign doesn’t have to disclose that:

While the pro-T-SPLOST advocacy effort revealed its 685 donations on Monday, some donors to a separate education effort may remain secret.

Organized as a 501(c)(3) under federal tax laws, the Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network is not legally required to disclose its contributors. Under federal law, the group — called MAVEN — cannot specifically call for residents to vote for the T-SPLOST. Instead they have called it “one solution” to metro Atlanta’s traffic woes.

MAVEN is funding education efforts as well as some get-out-the vote activities, Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Tad Leithead said.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has ordered the removal of two state house candidates from the ballot for failing to meet qualification requirements.

Kemp’s office announced Monday that Anne Taylor, a Democrat from Mableton, does not meet the residency requirement to run for the District 39 seat in the House of Representatives. That means Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan will be unopposed in the July 31 primary election.

Kemp also decided that Richie Smith, a Democrat from Lake, is ineligible to run for the District 151 seat in the House. Smith failed to appear at a legal hearing after he was accused of owing taxes.

The City of Blythe will vote on Sunday sales next Tuesday.

The owner of Mack’s Country Store on Georgia Highway 88 said he’s losing $1,500 to $2,000 each Sunday to the competition only a mile and a half away.

Because customers want to buy their gas, cigarettes, beer, wine and other items at one time, they’ve been taking their business to the nearby CITGO station, which lies outside the Blythe city limits in Richmond County and can sell alcohol on Sundays.

“It would mean a whole lot for my business. I need it approved,” Rose said. “Good customers of mine tell me that is exactly what they’re doing on Sundays. I hope that the people in the city of Blythe will understand and vote yes when it comes time to vote it in.”

Mark Hatfield released a YouTube video asking:

In the race for the 7th state senate district, Tyler Harper tells voters that he can be trusted to protect our “Christian, Conservative values” in South Georgia. But given Tyler’s close association and involvement with a company that has received multi-millions of taxpayer dollars in AFFIRMATIVE ACTION contracts from the federal government over the years, how conservative can Tyler really be?

Jim Galloway writes of the video:

the video ties [Hatfield's opponent] Harper to a Bloomberg report, published last February, on white businesses that tapped more than $1 billion in preferential federal contracts by creating minority fronts. Among the individuals cited were “two Ocilla, Ga., modular-building sales companies that had different minority owners with the same white managers:”

Speaking of Jim Galloway, he also noted some shenanigans involving robocalls.

Earlier this month, a Republican candidate for chairman of the Cherokee County school board found herself the object of some underhandedness. From Rebecca Johnston and the Cherokee Tribune:

For School Board chair candidate and current School Board Vice Chair Janet Read, a couple of robo-calls that went out to voters have her calling for answers.

The first, which is said to have gone out from a phone number identified as one belonging to Grassroots Conservatives of Cherokee leader Bill Dewrell, told those receiving the call to contact Read at the Cherokee County School District offices.

The latest, though, not only gave Read’s home phone number for those who might want to contact her, but also appeared to originate from Read’s home phone. The call was so inflammatory that Read called for extra patrols at her home.

However, the political signs in Read’s front yard and that of her neighbor were torn down, neighbors said, and thrown in the street where they were run over repeatedly.

Somebody apparently thinks turnabout is fair play. Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers on Sunday posted the following on via Facebook:

Today, my opponent’s campaign sunk to a new low. We have received calls this afternoon confirming that my opponent’s campaign is making robo-calls against me and claiming to be from Grassroots Conservatives. They have even pirated the cell phone number of innocent 3rd party to make these calls. Bill Dewrell is now taking the extraordinary step to call voters and alert them to the Brandon Beach phone call scam.

It’s not an election season until folks in politics are throwing around threats of defamation suits, this time in Cherokee County.

Cherokee County politics continued to heat up Friday when a political consultant sent a scathing email to a local political action committee and its chairman, which was subsequently published on the group’s website.

Robert Trim, whose clients include Sen. Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), wrote the email to Board of Education Chairman Mike Chapman, who is also chair for Neighbors for A Better Cherokee, a PAC working for pro-public education candidates in Cherokee County.

In Thursday’s email, Trim writes: “I’m pretty busy these days as a professional in my field, and although I thoroughly enjoy crushing amateurs as a hobby… right now I’m busy enough that paying attention to you will be more annoying that you are worth (sic). For that reason, and that reason alone, I’m giving you a warning shot across the bow instead of grinding you into concrete like a bug.”

Chapman said Trim sent the email to the Neighbors for A Better Cherokee Gmail account Thursday morning.

He said the webmaster for the group then responded with an apology explaining that it had been removed. Trim responded with the final email, making threats directed toward Chapman.

“The bottom line is, we immediately did what he asked and we apologized,” Chapman said. “My beef is not with Robert Trim, it’s about getting the facts out. We changed the verbiage he requested we change immediately.”

Trim goes on in the email to say that if Chapman plans to accuse him of law breaking, Chapman “better be sure” he has committed a crime.

“In my case, I haven’t…and your site is defamation per se,” Trim wrote. “Check with your lawyers…you aren’t protected by NYT v. Sullivan and can no more accuse me of crimes than I can set up a website and start identifying you as anything other than a failed candidate.”

Trim’s reference to the New York Times v. Sullivan case is referencing the 1964 lawsuit that established actual malice must be proven to be considered defamation and libel in regard to press reports about public officials and public figures.

Other silliness related to campaign season? More questionable robocalls.

Robo calls over the weekend claiming to be associated with the Oconee County GOP are not related to the organization in any way, Chairman Jay Hanley said in a news release Monday.

The news release came in response to “numerous reports from citizens” saying they had received calls regarding the Georgia House District 117 race.

Callers were told the polling came from “Elaine from Watkinsville Republicans” and it asked them to respond to a question about the primary race between incumbent Doug McKillip and challenger Regina Quick, the release noted.

Respondents who chose McKillip’s name heard negative information about him, but if they selected Quick’s name, the caller was reminded to vote in the primary election on July 31.

The following post on Regina Quick’s Facebook page states the campaign is not responsible for the calls.

“There is someone making autocalls from a 719 exchange saying they are a ‘Watkinsville Republican.’ Let me assure you, its not our campaign. If you hear about it, please let your friends know.”

The Cherokee Tribune profiles four candidates in the election for House District 23.

Those vying to be the first state representative from the new district include Mandi Ballinger, Dean Sheridan, Alan Shinall and Harold Welchel.

and covers the contest between State Rep. Sean Jerguson and his challenger Scot Turner.

US Attorneys have asked to delay the sentencing of Shirley Fanning-Lasseter for accepting cash in exchange for zoning votes so that the government can “facilitate matters related to the defendant’s cooperation.” I suspect that last phrase means that more arrests will follow based on SFL’s cooperation.

That might make it difficult for Tracey Mason Blasi, a candidate for Gwinnett County Superior Court to explain how she was Shirley Fanning-Lasseter’s personal “zoning judge” when Lasseter was Mayor of Duluth.

Tracey Mason Blasi, an attorney practicing in Lawrenceville, has been appointed assistant municipal judge for Duluth.

Duluth has established a zoning court, and Blasi will hande strictly zoning issues.

“This is really her forte,” said Mayor Shirley Lasseter.

Two candidates for Hall County Board of Education peg the system’s problems as related to budgets that continue to shrink while student numbers swell.

Ends & Pieces

The story doesn’t mention whether he said, “hold my beer, y’all watch this,” but a Richmond County man has been hospitalized after a bet.

Video surveillance from Alley Katz, off Washington Road, shows two men approaching William Bonner Jr., throwing a shot of alcohol on his head and lighting it around 1:30 a.m. Friday.

Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Blaise Dresser said no criminal charges will be filed because Bonner admitted to investigators that he had agreed to the act.

If her dad was the “Godfather of Soul,” his eldest daughter appears to be a lost soul.

James Brown’s oldest daughter is wanted by North Augusta Public Safety after she was accused of stealing a car from St. Stephen Ministries in Augusta and injuring her boss outside a bank in North Augusta when the boss tried to get the car back, authorities said.

[a witness] reached into the car to try to take the keys, but Brown quickly accelerated, dragging Campbell into and over the hood of another vehicle parked in front of the Suburban, according to Thornton. The extent of her injuries was not released.

Brown drove away and was last seen headed into Georgia across the 13th Street Bridge.Brown is charged in warrants with possession of a stolen vehicle, leaving the scene of an accident and first degree assault and battery.

23
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 23, 2012

“Cat” and “Finch” are 12-pound female mixed-breed puppies, thought to be about three months old. $40 saves the lives of both of these pups, as Walton County Animal Services is offering them as a pair at a discount. They will come with their vaccinations, microchips (if you want them), de-wormed, and flea/tick treated.

Georgia Public Broadcasting has a list of some hotels that welcome dogs and cats, including the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, some of which include alfresco dining and canine cocktail hour.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Advanced voting continues this week, with some counties offering expanded locations. Check your county’s voting information on Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s website.

Governor Nathan and Mrs. Sandra Deal serving guests.

The Georgia Department of Education is freezing some federal funds to the Dougherty County school system because of accounting questions. The funds in question may include up to $10 million of the system’s $114.8 million budget.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission has reprimanded Willie Weaver Sr, who is the municipal court judge for Albany, Dawson, and Sylvester.

The JQC opened an ethics investigation following media reports of Weaver’s arrest on a charge of aggravated assault. Albany news reports stated that Weaver was charged with hitting his wife in the face with a beer bottle. According to news reports, Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had been called in after Weaver’s wife was taken to a local hospital with facial cuts that required stitches following what the DA described at the time as an alleged incident of domestic violence.

According to the JQC report, a special prosecutor subsequently was appointed to investigate the charge, and Weaver agreed at the time to a suspension without pay pending resolution of the case.

But Weaver’s wife, Vester Weaver, last month convened a news conference with her church pastor to deny that her husband had ever struck her, although she acknowledged at the time that a protective order was in place that barred him from contacting her. Weaver told local news media at the time that she did not ask for the protective order and wanted it lifted.

According to the JQC report, Weaver eventually entered a plea deal that dismissed the assault charge. In return, the report said that Weaver agreed to attend marital and stress counseling.

In its report, the JQC said that it had “attempted to balance its responsibility to the public to insure an honorable and independent judiciary with its responsibility to deal fairly with a judge who understands that while the criminal charge was dismissed, the event, and the publicity which followed it, brought discredit upon the judge and the judicial system.”

Both Weaver and his Albany attorney, Mark Brimberry, consented to and signed the JQC report.

The National Journal lists Georgia’s Twelfth Congressional District as the 14th-most likely for an incumbent defeat in November.

 “Republican state legislators targeted Barrow via redistricting earlier in his career, and he survived. The latest attempt planted the Blue Dog Democrat in a solidly conservative seat, though, and he’ll have a major challenge on his hands against whoever emerges from a bruising, contested Republican primary.

Centrist Democratic groups are already on TV in Savannah praising Barrow’s moderate record, but Republicans will counter in the fall with clips of Barrow claiming to have worked “hand in hand” with Obama during a tough Democratic primary in 2010.

That could be enough to unseat Barrow in a district where Obama might struggle to top 40 percent of the vote.”

Republican candidates in the primary to run against Barrow met in a televised debate last night.

Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell and his opponent in the Republican primary election, Eugene Moon, have different takes on Powell’s record.

As a commissioner for two terms, Powell, who is 55, is offering his record of no tax increases, his efforts in the construction of the new county jail and new parks and his role in moving county departments into the old Liberty Mutual Building as evidence of his leadership.

Meanwhile, the 44-year-old Moon is attacking some of those efforts, calling them a record of expanding government during a recession.

“He crows about all of his accomplishments. The things he talks about when he’s out stumping are all of the things he’s built in Hall County,” said Moon, with a sarcastic edge to the word “built.”

“What he is talking about is how he has grown government.”

For many, this issue is at the core of what it means to be a Republican in state and local government.

This past Saturday saw the state’s first Saturday voting, which appears to be a success for some voters.

Doug Collins and Martha Zoller have opened the money spigots in their race for the Republican nomination for Congress in the new Ninth District.

Collins … led the race to raise money, pulling in some $81,685 in contributions.

Collins also had the most cash left over at the end of the quarter.

Following behind him in the fundraising race, Zoller, a former conservative radio talk show host, raised more than $73,510; Fitzpatrick, a former White County school principal, pulled in some $11,811.

But Collins, a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives, also spent more than double the campaign cash he’s spent in each of the last two reporting periods.

According to his filing with the elections commission, Collins’ campaign spending last quarter neared $142,000.

In contrast, Collins spent less than $60,000 in the first three months of this year; and in the final quarter of 2011, the campaign reported spending $70,957.

Zoller’s campaign spending, reported at $72,062, was also the highest it’s been since she joined the race last fall.

Fitzpatrick, who filed his first campaign disclosure report with the FEC on Monday, reported some $6,200 in campaign expenses.

Spokespeople for both Zoller and Collins attribute the higher spending to last-minute efforts to garner voters’ attention.

Click Here

If this race goes to a runoff, as appears likely, the first task for each candidate will be to top up their campaign accounts. If you’ve donated to one of them, brace yourself.

In Cherokee County, several weeks ago, anonymous robocalls attacking Janet Read went out using her cell phone number as the Caller Id.

While the usual election sign wars have many candidates up in arms, robo-calls seem to be causing even more concern as many local races heat up in the last weeks before the July 31 primary.

For School Board chair candidate and current School Board Vice Chair Janet Read, a couple of robo-calls that went out to voters have her calling for answers.

The first, which is said to have gone out from a phone number identified as one belonging to Grassroots Conservatives of Cherokee leader Bill Dewrell, told those receiving the call to contact Read at the Cherokee County School District offices.

The latest, though, not only gave Read’s home phone number for those who might want to contact her, but also appeared to originate from Read’s home phone. The call was so inflammatory that Read called for extra patrols at her home.

Then yesterday, karma some tricksters struck back when anonymous robocalls targeting Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers transmitted the cell phone number of a political operative associated with Rogers..

If morale within the Hall County Sheriff’s Department kept coming up in a forum for the five candidates running to replace Sheriff Steve Cronic, maybe that means it’s currently an issue.

Fifty-six state legislative candidates either owe or have owed back taxes to the government. State Senate candidate David Doss responded to his inclusion on the list.

The factual part of the AJC article is that the taxes in question have been paid. In fact, the only taxes that David Doss had any liability for were paid some 8 years ago.

Unfortunately, this AJC article will now become new fodder for the Chuck Hufstetler campaign to distort and use in his negative smear campaign against me. Just like the attack mail piece from last week that was so slanderous, that Hufstetler campaign refused to put their name on it. The citizens of the 52nd District deserve more than this type of gutter politics from Chuck Hufstetler.

Among Savannah’s Democratic state representatives, it’s a split decision on T-SPLOST.

Four Democratic state lawmakers that represent the area took turns Saturday morning arguing for and against a proposed sales tax going before voters on July 31.

State Rep. Mickey Stephens and State Sen. Lester Jackson, of Savannah, voiced their opposition to the 1-percent sales tax, while Representatives Bob Bryant, of Garden City, and Craig Gordon, of Savannah, tried to convince about 30 residents of the proposal’s merits during a forum at the Savannah Arts Academy.

The Savannah Morning News endorses Bill Hitches in the Republican primary for house district 161, an open seat.

Mr. Hitchens, 65, has spent a lifetime in the military and in law enforcement, mostly with the Georgia State Patrol, where he rose to the rank of colonel. Prior to his retirement, he served as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety and director of the Georgia Department of Homeland Security.

If elected, he immediately will become one of the go-to guys in the House on public safety, crime and security issues. Such expertise will come in handy. The legislature has limited tax dollars to spend, and crime and punishment can get expensive.

Jace Brooks, running for Gwinnett County Commission district 1, has received the endorsements of the Mayors and city council members in the district.

Ethics is an issue in Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau’s reelection campaign, not because of specific allegations against the longest-serving Commissioner, but because of problems he helped bring to the public’s attention.

“Any incumbent has got to defend himself. That’s OK,” Beaudreau said of the race, where he has fired back against robo-calls, mailers and other public accusations, trying to focus on his accomplishments and record. “The difficult decisions are not over. I’ve got plenty of experience in dealing with them.”

While his opponents have cast him in the same negative role as the commissioners who left the job in disgrace, Beaudreau said many of his constituents remember that he was the one who called attention to the land deals and asked for ethics reform before the problems came to light.

But Beaudreau was deposed as part of the scandal, pointed out Mike Korom, a Dacula man who emerged on the political scene to fight against the now-defunct proposal to add commercial flights at the county airport.

The election for DeKalb County Clerk of Courts is a lively race this year with five candidates. Even more lively is the Clayton County Sheriff’s election, as indicted former Sheriff Victor Hill is among the eight candidates.

The eight people running for Clayton County Sheriff include the incumbent and the man he unseated and six people who have worked for one or both of them…four of whom were fired.

There is little that is simple or uneventful about the office of Sheriff in Clayton County.

The residents of Clayton hope this election will bring some sanity and respect to the office that some believe has contributed to the “black eye” on the county for the past several years. A special grand jury is investigating local officials, including the travel of some of the county commissioners. The county school system is still smarting from Southern Association of Colleges and School decision to revoke its accreditation because of dysfunction on the school board.

“There is just a climate of corruption in the county,” said resident Dave Clark. “The whole thing is absolutely embarrassing.”

Surprisingly no one, Fulton County Elections is having trouble with redistricting and assigning voters to new districts.

Inaccuracies on precinct cards in Fulton appeared to affect more than 300 voters who had already cast their votes. The problem involved wrong precinct information printed on cards. “Due to database entry mistakes within the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections, voters on some streets were placed in the wrong districts,” the department said in a statement Friday to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

As a result, some Fulton voters received incorrect absentee or advance-voting ballots that omitted a race they should have voted in. The department said new “corrected” precinct cards have been printed and mailed.

Officials were also sending new ballots to voters who cast absentee ballots and have asked those who voted in-person to come back and vote in the additional race.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer profiles the contested primary for Muscogee County school board district 1.

Local governments whose budgets exceed $1 million must now post online information, but only one-third of those required have done so.

“It’s a toothless law that probably needs to be adjusted,” said Jack Starver, chairman for the Northwest Georgia 9-12 project, an organization with roots in the tea party. “If these guys are lighting cigars with $5 bills, we should probably know that.”

Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, who backed the law, said the goal was to make it easier for taxpayers to find budgets. He said he would consider trying to add penalties to the law if local governments do not comply.

“We went out of our way to make this not hard,” he said. “These cities, counties and school districts are doing a disservice to their own constituents. In the interest of open government, they need to step forward.”

DeKalb County, the cities of Buford, College Park, East Point and Lawrenceville and the Clayton County school district are among the local governments that still have not submitted their budgets for electronic publication.

“We erred,” said Burke Brennan, a DeKalb County spokesman. “We’re disappointed that we missed this one but we’re going to make it right.”

Maybe DeKalb County’s highly-paid lobbyist could have spent more time letting the county know which laws passed, and less time opposing residents seeking to incorporate the City of Brookhaven.

Economic Development

The Savannah Morning News lauds the decision to fast track the federal approval process for the deepening of the Port of Savannah.

The president may wrongly see government as the overriding force in making all businesses successful. But government does have a primary role in providing essential infrastructure, like ship channels for U.S. seaports. He deserves credit for putting Savannah’s port deepening project near the top of the list.

Here’s a thought for you all. If transportation infrastructure improvements are meant to increase economic development, moving freight is more important than moving people. Look back at all the economic development announcements made by Governor Deal this year and see how many of them mention access to Georgia’s privately-owned freight railroad network and to the ports, and see how many mentioned transit. The answers are (1) all of them; and (2) none of them. That’s your economic development lesson for the day.

Disney parks merchandise will now flow through the Port of Jacksonville, rather than Savannah,

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is diverting 75 percent of its inbound cargo that used to go through the Port of Savannah to the TraPac Container Terminal at Dames Point.

The switch reduces transportation costs for the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) division, while the new business at the Asian terminal is expected to add about 1,300 40-foot containers in volume annually. Top public- and private-sector leaders said the move is a win for the city, the Jacksonville Port Authority, the state of Florida and the company.

“It was about optimizing our supply chain and being able to minimize the cost associated with bringing freight here,” said Anthony Connelly, senior vice president and chief financial officer of the U.S. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “So to us, it was about saving money and certainly we’re excited to be able to participate in growing Florida’s economy as well as Jacksonville’s economy.”

[Florida Governor Rick] Scott said Florida has a big economic opportunity with the state’s 15 seaports. More shipping will create jobs in related industries, such as manufacturing. The seaports will create a lot of jobs, but the state has to continue to build its infrastructure.

“We’ve put Florida on the map with regard to our seaports,” Scott said. “We have a big opportunity right here in Jaxport.”

Ends & Pieces

Jim Galloway has a great piece on the “late life conversion” of former Governor and US Senator Zell Miller. It’s worth reading in its entirety.

Sea turtles are beginning to hatch on Georgia’s coast.

A nest at North Beach began hatching Wednesday. Another nest, near 11th Street, hatched last night. It’s a record-breaking nesting season on the island, with at least 17 nests.

A restored Civil War flag originally issued to the 65th Georgia Infantry will go on display tomorrow at the Kennesaw Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History.

The flag is the only known surviving example of an Army of Tennessee flag that has both the unit and state designations sewn onto both sides. Following its donation in February 2010, the Museum sent the flag to a West Virginia company that specializes in the restoration of historic artifacts.

The bloodstained flag is riddled with 41 bullet holes that it received during the Atlanta and Tennessee campaigns. By the War’s end, the flag saw action during a number of battles, including Resaca, New Hope Church/Dallas/Pickett’s Mill, Kennesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek and Atlanta.

19
Jul

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

Patsy (F) and Parker (M) are 2-3 month old puppies weighing in at about 11 pounds each. The are available for adoption for $40 each from Walton County Animal Services and have been vaccinated and de-wormed and will come with vouchers for discounted spay/neuter.

Gwinnett Urgent Care and Suwanee Station Dentistry in Gwinnett County have a therapy dog named Ruckus.

Ruckus, who will be 7 in July, is a chocolate spaniel who serves as a therapy dog for both sides of the office. The Perrys believe having Ruckus around fosters a more comfortable and family atmosphere that calms the nerves of anxious patients.

“When people come in they don’t feel well, that’s why they’re here, they’re sick,” Ron said. “If Ruckus will come in the room, their whole face just lightens up. They suddenly just start feeling a bit better.”

Gift, and her mother, Ashley, agree.

“He probably helps them feel better because they have somebody to talk to,” Myla said. “It makes it more fun that there’s an animal friend.”

Ashley Gift said Ruckus makes it easier for her daughter to visit the doctor’s office.

“She doesn’t dread coming here, she knows she gets to see him,” Ashley said. “It makes it more fun. She asks for him every time we come.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Beginning next week, satellite early voting stations open in some jurisdictions, and this Saturday is the only Saturday early voting for the July 31st elections.

The Secretary of State’s website has “My Voter Page” where you can sign in and find advanced and early voting information, as well as your new districts for State House, Senate, County Commission and other offices. This page will help you find contact information for your county board of elections if you have questions.

Governor Nathan Deal stated his support for Chuck Eaton in his reelection to the Public Service Commission. Deal said:

“During his tenure on the Public Service Commission, Chuck Eaton has assisted my efforts  for economic development and job creation in Georgia. Chuck Eaton shares my top priority to make Georgia the No. 1 state in which to do business. By working to repeal of the tax on energy used for manufacturing, Chuck’s strong, conservative record helps make this goal a reality.”

Attorney General Sam Olens and Congressmen Phil Gingrey and Tom Price discussed the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s ObamaCare ruling with the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Club.

In Senate District 21, direct mail purportedly paid for by TrafficTruth.net is targeting Brandon Beach, the challenger to Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, while signs that say “Boot Chip – Are you better off than you were eight years ago” appear to have been paid for by Neighbors for A Better Cherokee.

Also in Cherokee County, the anonymous robocalls against Janet Read have continued, obviously paid for by a coward.

Pro-tip: putting flyers of any kind on mailboxes is illegal.

A group circulating a flier against Cherokee County District 2 Commissioner Jim Hubbard is in violation of U.S. Postal Service rules, postal officials say.

The flier was found taped onto mailboxes in the communities, which violates U.S. Postal Service rules, according to postal officials.

Postal Service spokesperson Michael Miles said it’s against postal policy to place anything on or inside mailboxes.

U.S. Code Section 1725 prohibits the distribution or mailing of items without paying postage.

“Many people are not aware that it is a violation of USPS policy and law to place items on or in a mailbox,” Miles said. “When this is brought to their attention, they usually refrain from this behavior and there is no need for further USPS action.”

If the violations persist, Miles said the postal service can then collect the mailers and determine how much postage is due to the service.

Once they are able to determine a cost, Miles said they can actually bill the originator for the postage.

Democrat Lesli Messinger, who is running for Congress from the First District issued a press release stating that she is “The only woman running for a national office this election season in Georgia, she’s a lone  coastal Democrat amid the state’s Congressional candidates.” Maria Sheffield (R-12) and Martha Zoller (R-9) might take issue with that, but I can see how the names “Maria” and “Martha” might be confusing on that point.

The Republican candidates in the Twelfth Congressional District met in a debate last night.

UGA Political Scientist Charles Bullock appears to be predicting defeat for the T-SPLOST.

“So although tons of money is being spent to encourage voting for the T-SPLOST and thesupport of the Chamber of Commerce, it looks like it will go down to defeat,” Bullock said in an analysis emailed to Patch. “We have the interesting phenomenon of disagreement between many GOP leaders and a group usually closely associated with the GOP (the Chamber).”

Bullock concluded: “With GOP leadership unwilling to step forward and reassure conservative, anti-tax voters that the projects to be funded with the T-SPLOST are meritorious, there is scant prospect for approval.”

Gun store owners might start lobbying for elections every year, as gun sales appear to be rising in advance of this year’s elections.

Gun sales are soaring nationwide and retailers say that’s not unusual to see during a presidential election year. “Basically the situation you have now is 2008 all over again,” said Steven B. Drew, Owner of Georgia Gun and Loan.

Analysts say the 2008 spike came from fear that new gun control legislation would make it more difficult to acquire firearms. “People were uncertain what the new President and the new administration was going to do so there tends to be a upsurge in fire arm sales in general,” said Drew.

Four seats on the DeKalb County School Board are up for election this year, and all seats will be up in 2014. All twelve candidates for those seats will be at a forum tonight from 6:45 to 8:30 PM in the  Arabia Mountain High School auditorium, at 6610 Browns Mill Road in Lithonia. RSVP to ptsa@arabiaptsa.org or 770-875-0213.

In Cobb County, school board candidate Linda Hanson has accused incumbent David Banks of invading her childrens’ privacy.

Banks distributed his e-newsletter, David’s Grapevine, in which he wrote: “This week one of my opponents made it known through the Marietta Daily Journal that the Cobb County Associations (sic) of Educators had given their endorsement based on my opponents ‘activity’ in education. To determine the validity of this claim, I personally contacted the schools where their children had either attended or were presently attending and in no instance could I validate or substantiate any participation in school activities or organizations by either of my opponents.”

Hanson said she was “very concerned and most disturbed” by the newsletter.

“For him to go to my children’s schools for information for political gain is highly unethical and way beyond the realm of what a board member should be doing,” she said. “The parents in Cobb County Schools deserve better than to feel like their information, privacy is being encroached upon, regardless if it’s a board member or just someone off the street.”

Banks, meanwhile, called her concerns “silly” and insisted he did nothing inappropriate. Banks said he did not receive any records about Hanson’s children.

Gwinnett County developer Dan O’Leary still believes the casino gambling ballot question on Republican ballots will fail, and continues trying to distance his proposal for “video lottery terminals” in a casino-gambling style setting.

O’Leary believes the vote is destined to fail because of the ballot’s wording, and he’s been quietly working business crowds and boardrooms to uncouple his proposal with the outcome of the vote. His plan, he tells them, doesn’t involve a casino but video lottery terminals, which resemble a slot machine but would be operated by the lottery board.

“God as my witness, I had nothing to do with that question,” he said, arms held aloft, at a recent meeting of Gwinnett County business leaders in a cramped office across the street from the proposed site of the gambling resort.

Republican chairwoman Sue Everhart, who said she put the question on the ballot after years of urging from some GOP heavyweights, said the vote will measure the appetite for expanded gambling among Republicans.

If it passes by a clear margin, she said, it will force lawmakers to “seriously” consider the prospect of video lottery terminals. But if it fails, an outcome she expects, “it would send the message that Georgians don’t want gambling.”

“At some point the question has to be answered, and I think this will answer it,” Everhart said. “This will settle it so we can move forward.”

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle would like to appoint Clark Howard to the citizen review panel if T-SPLOST passes, but Howard has said he might not have time for the commitment.

Cagle had hoped Howard’s membership on the panel would assuage worries about the money being spent properly. The state is divided into 12 regions for the referendum; each has its own project list for voters to consider, and each would have its own citizen review panel.

“Voters should have as much information as possible, and the citizen oversight committee is a key part of this process,” Cagle said.

Former Cobb County Commission Chair Bill Byrne picked up the endorsement of D.A. King and the Cobb Taxpayers Association in his quest to unseat incumbent Tim Lee.

D.A. King says he’s backing Bill Byrne for county chairman. King said his original intention was to remain neutral in the chairman’s race.

“When it became clear to me that the BOC was not going to move forward on saving jobs for American workers on taxpayer funded projects by taking the next logical step with the IMAGE certification, I voted for Bill Byrne for chairman by absentee ballot and proudly support him,” King said. “Bill, an old friend, was the only candidate to reach out to me and promise, without condition, to require all public contractors and subcontractors to become IMAGE certified. I believe him when he says that he understands that illegal immigration is not a separate issue from jobs, taxes, health care and education.

“Frankly, I haven’t heard anything from the other challengers. The current chairman, who I like very much, has been dealing with the IMAGE certification issue for at least 18 months and pronounced it a great move for Cobb when he signed the IMAGE agreement. The concept that the same requirement for public contractors needs more study time strikes me as absurd and transparent. State legislation, much of which I have worked on myself over the years is written, vetted and signed into law in a three month window.”

In House District 66 (Douglas and Paulding counties), Republican Mike Miller has out-raised and out-spent both his opponents.

Bryant Cochran, the third-term incumbent Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge, and challenger Dwayne Hooper, are profiled in the Dalton Daily News.

Dr. Bernice Brooks is back on the ballot, running for reelection to the Carroll County Board of Education.

Coweta Circuit Superior Court Judge Jack Kirby signed the order, saying it would be “unjust” to leave the 12-year school board member off the ballot.

“Clearly this was an error, simply a mistake that was made,” Kirby said. “It would be incredibly unjust for Ms. Brooks to be knocked off the ballot.”

Kirby called the error a “scrivener’s error,” a clerical error made in legal documents. The hearing to address Brooks’ writ of certiorari, or appeal, was Tuesday afternoon at the Coweta County Justice Center.

Brooks was unanimously disqualified by the Board of Elections and Registration in a special hearing last Tuesday after it was discovered her house is in a different district that the district she is running to represent. While the majority of Brooks’ Villa Rica property can be found in District 1, her home and street address are actually in District 3 because of a technical error.

Computer problems aren’t the only problem facing the State Campaign Finance Commission and voters seeking to learn where candidates raised money.

whereas statewide candidates are required to file electronically, local candidates are allowed to file paper reports, and a processing backlog means they can be delayed indefinitely.

Kennesaw State University political science professor and former secretary of state advisory board member David Shock said it all spells out a “huge disservice” to voters with many contributing factors.

“The biggest reason is that, a year or so ago, a new state law kicked in that requires candidates to file with the state ethics commission. I think there’s still a lot of confusion among local candidates on what they need to do,” he said.

Many of the candidates who hadn’t filed their PFD as of last week said they thought the report had already been filed.

Before 2011, local candidates filed reports with their local election board. Shock said he believes the change was made to standardize the process, however, the increased workload on the ethics commission has stretched its resources and caused the backlog.

Other causes in the high number of late filers may be a lack of drive in collecting fines. Initial late fees have increased from $25 to $125, but may go uncollected for long periods of time.

“Voters deserve to know who is funding their candidates,” Shock said. “I don’t know what the solution is. There needs to be more people reviewing the reports. There is probably a need for more education as well for candidates on what needs to be done.”

Click Here

President Obama announced the administration’s commitment to completing federal reviews for the Savannah Harbor Deepening Project, intended to increase river access to the Port of Savannah by dredging portions of the Savannah River. In fact, the commitment is that federal review will be finished by November 2012, just in time for Congressman John Barrow to take credit for it.

12
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 12, 2012

Tiffany (F) and Trouble (M) are six-week old puppies and weigh about eight pounds each. The $40 adoption fee for each includes vaccinations, deworming, and a voucher for a discount spay or neuter. Their owner turned them in to Walton County Animal Services, where they are available for adoption today.
These puppies are among the dogs and cats available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. It would be nice if I could tell you that the $30 special Gwinnett County Animal Shelter is running on adoptions is because their services are no longer needed and they’re going out of business. But the sad truth is that like countless shelters across the state, they’re receiving more animals than they can care for.

Georgia Ethics

The Senate Ethics Committee meets today at 11 AM in Room 328 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building without a publicly-announced agenda. The last time the Committee met with an announced agenda, they issued a statement that:

The Committee found that substantial cause exists to believe that Senator Balfour violated Senate Resolution 5 as it is further defined in the Senate Administrative Affairs Per Diem Policy and will seek to negotiate a settlement of the matter with Senator Balfour.

The next day, Senator Balfour wrote in a statement printed in the Gwinnett Daily Post,

“I still have not been allowed to go before the committee and defend myself.”

“When I do, I am confident the committee will understand that a senator who gave up thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded pension benefits had no intention of doing anything wrong in a matter of a few hundred dollars,” the statement read.

In my opinion, the bigger problem is the continuing failure of the Senate to abide by state law that require the Senate Rules Committee to appoint a subcommittee to examine reimbursements periodically.

state law says that the Senate Rules Committee must have an audits subcommittee “to examine and review, not less than once every two months, legislative expenditures, including all vouchers submitted by members of the Senate, as provided for in this Code section, for which the members have received payment. The subcommittee is authorized to issue reports of its examination and review.”

That Atlanta Journal-Constitution report is nearly two years old and it doesn’t appear that any progress has been made. This is about more than alleged improprieties by a single member. A continuing failure to act on reviewing per diem and reimbursements is either an organizational dysfunction or part of an internal culture that allowed alleged improprieties to occur without any threat of discovery.

The Senate has an opportunity to ensure that the review process at least begins before the next Session. Appointing a retiring Senator as Rules Chairman with the specific task of beginning to review these expenditures would be a significant step in restoring public trust to the Senate and might remove politics from this important process. A retiring Senator also won’t have any pressure to campaign for reelection, but could devote himself to the task. And collect a per diem too.

Click Here

At 10 AM, Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), who is a member of the Senate Ethics Committee, will hold a press conference in front of the Sloppy Floyd Building across from the Capitol. McKoon will join the Gift Cap Pledge Alliance, which comprises Georgia Tea Party Patriots, Georgia Conservatives in Action, and Common Cause Georgia in a bus tour beginning July 24th.

The tour will begin Tuesday, July 24 with a kick-off in Atlanta and end on Friday, July 27 in Athens. Tour stops will include Gainesville, Blue Ridge, Dalton, Macon, Columbus, Albany, Valdosta, Waycross, Brunswick, Savannah and Augusta.

The Ethics Express bus tour is open to all Georgia citizens and those in joining the tour should contact William Perry at 404-524-4598 or wperry@commoncause.org. Further details will be released at the press conference.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced on Tuesday that Academy Sports + Outdoors will bring 250 new jobs to its existing distribution center in Jeffersonville, Twiggs County.

Imagine my surprise last night to read on the front page of the AJC’s website the headline  “Electric rates not falling along with fuel costs.” But I thought that Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton was touting his vote to lower electric rates just as our air conditioners have switched into 24-7 mode. What’s really going on? The AJC ran a goofy headline that would lead you to believe that we’ll be paying a higher rate, even though the AP story never mentions Georgia but discusses rates in other state, and though electric rates are going down in Georgia.

Democratic State Representative Scott Holcomb has $51k cash on hand to defend himself in what is likely the highest-targeted state house race for the Republican Caucus. Republican challenger Dr. Carla Roberts has $27.5k cash on hand, but I suspect a portion of that is spoken for; Roberts hired an attorney to defend against a residency challenge. The filer of that challenge to Roberts’s residency, Chris Boedeker, reported $4372 cash-on-hand. The winner of the Boedeker-Roberts Republican Primary will start at a fundraising disadvantage to Holcomb, but will likely receive air support from the GOP House Caucus in the general election.

Angela Spencer of Neighbor Newspapers writes more extensively about North Fulton Tea Party debate between Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers and challenger Brandon Beach, including their positions on T-SPLOST, charter schools, vouchers, Milton County, and toll roads.

The T-SPLOST campaign is acknowledging for the first time that their pet feeding trough project is on the ropes:

Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce President Sam Williams acknowledges he and other supporters face an uphill battle with voters.

“It’s going to be a tight election, because I think the economy is such right now that people are very concerned about any kind of financing,” Williams said. “They want it proven to them that the traffic relief and the jobs are going to come out of this.”

Local lawmakers in Savannah are managing expectations in advance of the looming T-SPLOST defeat:

Some local lawmakers are concerned that these projects could be the last for a while if voters reject a proposed penny sales tax for transportation.

The state has funded the projects to the tune of about a $290 million in recent years.

Savannah State Representative Ron Stephens says, that’s led some high-ranking state officials to tell him that Savannah’s “had its turn” and not to expect much in road funds in coming years.

“Keep in mind that we’ve had a lot of coastal leadership for quite some time,” Stephens say. “So there has been mention that Savannah has had it’s major projects.”

He says, the area has lost political influence because of redistricting and the election of North Georgians to top leadership positions.

Todd Long, Deputy GDOT Commissioner, warns that federal road funds may become scarce if Congress learns to live within its means:

“If Congress lives within its means — and you know that most people running for Congress, around here at least, are saying (that) — there’s this general attitude that eventually they’re going to say, ‘Whatever the gas tax brings in is what we’re going to spend on transportation,’” he said.

If that happens, in 2015, Georgia “will probably see a 25 to 30 percent decrease” in transportation funding.

In a bright spot for advocates of raising taxes, the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government endorsed passage of T-SPLOST.

Jim Galloway has an interesting story about State Rep. Charlice Byrd and her Republican Primary opponent Michael Caldwell. It seems that Byrd has changed her vote after casting it 24 times, more than any other legislator.

The effort that Caldwell put into his research — as a salesman for a small safety equipment company, he describes himself as meticulous — went far beyond your normal opposition research. A team of six friends combed through thousands of pages of House journals.

According to their count, about one-third of 180 House members have never changed a vote once it was cast. Most others “dabble in it a little bit, but no more than two or three times on average,” Caldwell said.

He recorded every changed vote by every House member over the past six years on a spreadsheet and has begun passing the document around. “I wanted to make clear that I wasn’t just going after the one that was politically convenient to me,” Caldwell said.

Many of his statistics are stories begging to be told. For instance, in the opening days of 2008, during a furious feud between Gov. Sonny Perdue and the volatile Speaker Glenn Richardson, House members lined up behind their leader and overrode six of the governor’s vetoes. But state Rep. Gene Maddox, R-Cairo, sided with the governor. He voted against each override. And then decided he’d picked the wrong side. Maddox changed his vote six times that day, by Caldwell’s count.

But Caldwell also found that Byrd, his primary opponent, had come down with voter’s remorse 24 times in the past six years, registering more changed votes than any other member of the House. Her closest rival was state Rep. Ralph Long, D-Atlanta, who recorded 13 changed votes.

The effort Caldwell put into the research may tell you more about Caldwell than about Byrd.

Republican candidates for the 12th Congressional District will meet in a forum called “Getting Kids into the Conversation,” and sponsored by the Junior League of Augusta on Monday from 6 to 7:30 PM at Augusta-Richmond County Public Library.

The Richmond County Republican Party will co-host a televised debate next Wednesday for 12th District candidates  in the River Room at St. Paul’s Church, 605 Reynolds St.; doors open at 6 PM and the public should be seated by 6:30 PM. The debate will be broadcast live on WRDW News 12 from 7 to 8 PM.

Most of the candidates for Cherokee County School Board have filed their disclosures for the period ending June 30th.

Bernice Brooks was disqualified from the election for Carroll County Board of Education.

Brooks, the incumbent who had represented the area for more than a decade, was disqualified Tuesday.

“We will not throw out the ballots because there were several other candidate races and issues on the ballot,” said Carroll County Elections Supervisor Becky Deese. “Ms. Brooks does have a recourse she can take, but if the decision remains, votes for her will not be counted.”

The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce has released its survey of candidates for state and county offices.

National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund endorsements are out and you can expect to hear your local candidates touting their ratings.

Georgia Equality has released their endorsements. Interestingly, they make no pick in the State House race between State Rep. Rashad Taylor, who is gay, and State Rep. Pat Gardner, who has long supported gay issues. Also interesting, they have endorsed Ron Paul supporter Robert McClure, who is challenging State Rep. Brooks Coleman in the Republican Primary.

Matt Reeves, immediate Past President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association, endorsed Kathy Schrader for Gwinnett County Superior Court in the July 31st election.

“I am supporting Kathy Schrader because of her stellar reputation and her commitment to the our community.  I understand personally the time and energy it takes to balance family, practice law and hold the office of President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association. Under Kathy’s leadership, the GCBA won every possible award from the State Bar, including the President’s Award. Her tenure as President laid the groundwork for the strong organization we are today, and I am confident that Kathy will bring that same leadership to the Superior Court. I am pround to endorse my fellow Past President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association and fellow Duluth resident, Kathy Schrader for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge.”

Reeves served as Counsel to Representative Wendell Willard, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, during the 2008 Georgia General Assembly. Last week, Schrader was endorsed by Sherriann Hicks, who served as President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association from 2003-2004