Category: Utilities

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.

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 [email protected] 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

5
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 5, 2012

“25571” is a dachshund puppy and “25570” is being called a shepherd puppy, and both are friendly, playful (duh, they’re puppies) and will be available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. The Dachshund will be available on Saturday and the Shepherd can be adopted tomorrow.

STILL MISSING!

MacCallan is a black lab mix who wears a red collar and was lost last night when he jumped the fence at his home. He is mostly black with a white chest and friendly disposition and he answers to “Mac” or “Pig” and may be skittish around strangers. Last seen leaving the Candler Park MARTA station after apparently riding a train. Seriously. In addition to his owner’s gratitude, there may be a reward from MARTA for information leading to his arrest for fare-jumping.

If you see Mac or capture him, please call Will at 706-977-8947 or email him.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Florida’s United State Senator Marco Rubio will be autographing copies of his book An American Son: A Memoir at NOON today at the Books-A-Million at 5900 Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville, GA 30043 [Click for a map].

Candidates now have four days to file their campaign disclosure statements for the period ending June 30th. Here are some recommendations in case you’re having problems with the State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission filing system.

Click Here

As we get closer to Primary and Nonpartisan elections on July 31st, we can expect campaigns to get increasingly nasty.

Example 1 is the campaign in Gwinnett County for an open seat on the State Court. Former Superior Court Judge Richard Winegarden, who lost his reelection in 2008 and is attempting a judicial comeback to the lower court.

After a recent in-person forum got testy, its not surprising that opponents of Winegarden are taking to the internet. In an anonymous website, local lawyers are sounding off on what they say was Winegarden’s judicial distemper temperment. Quote of the day goes to Lawrenceville attorney Christine Koehler, quoting District Attorney Danny Porter.

[M]y co-counsel, as well as [District Attorney Danny] Porter went with me to see then Judge Winegarden regarding my health.

Judge Winegarden’s main concern was for the schedule of the case.  In an attempt to not have a delay in the trial, Judge Winegarden asked me to postpone my surgery since doctors weren’t even sure I had cancer.

I told him that since he wasn’t a doctor I wasn’t inclined to follow his suggestion over that of my doctors.

He then continued on and on about himself until DA Porter said, “You’re an a**hole. Christine has come in here to tell you she may have cancer and she needs to have surgery and you have managed to make this all about you.”

I can find no campaign disclosures filed for any group called Citizens for Integrity on the Bench. Some of the allegations against Winegarden are signed by attorneys who are taking a risk in doing so, but other entries are unsigned. Make of it what you will.

Example 2 is the ongoing saga of the return of Beth Merkelson, a fictitious sockpuppet persona used to attack Republican senators allegedly by people connected to State Senator Cecil Staton. Staton’s Republican Primary opponent Spencer Price is fighting back against charges once again leveled via email against a political opponent of Staton.

It all started with an email from a man named Brian Zorotovich. It was sent to Monroe and Bibb County Republicans. In it, Zorotovich claims Price has unpaid taxes.

“Which is false,” Price says. “I have documentation demonstrating that I, in fact, did pay a number of taxes that were overdue–due to circumstances relating to my son’s illness and my time lost from work.”

He continued, “I had a significant reduction in income for a number of years and Mr. Zorotovich has attempted to mischaracterize that circumstance.”

He also says Price, an officer in the NationalGuard, had a business transaction with a loan that was unpaid.

Price says he got behind while deployed to Iraq.

“It was an investment in a business entity that I was developing when the investor decided to withdraw the investment based on my deployment overseas and the fact that I was no longer able at that time to continue developing the business entity. I returned the investment in full to the last penny.”

Price showed 13WMAZ his email exchanges with the State Ethics Commission. He said he sent them in an effort to correctly submit his campaign disclosures. He says that’s why several campaign disclosures were sent in late.

He says it wasn’t because he’s hiding anything, as Zorotovich’s email suggests.

Zorotovich says the Medical Center of Central Georgia sued Price over an unpaid bill of more than $100,000, but Price says this is a copy of a check showing that he paid back more than he owed.

In the email, Zorotovich denies he is associated with any campaign, but Price’s camp says Zorotovich played on the same intramural basketball team as Zachary Lewis, Staton’s aide.

“My opponent has a tremendous amount to lose if he is unseated he is the majority whip in the state senate,” says Price.

He says the email was an attack on his character and he says you don’t really know someone’s character until it’s challenged.

“I lost a child tragically. I lost a tremendous amount of time from work. I committed to paying all of the bills associated with his illness in honor of him and his life,” Price says, “And to have done that–rather than take the advice from the financial administrators at Egleston and file for bankruptcy–is a demonstration of my core character and what I’m all about.”

Price says he’s running because he’s lived a life of service as a doctor and in the military and he wants to serve the people of district 18.

Price’s camp did respond to the email and they say once Zorotovich realized they connected him with Staton’s camp the emails stopped and he withdrew all of his previous posts.

Price claims that supporters of Staton are behind the email claims.

“I am calling on my opponent, Cecil Staton, to publicly disavow this type of character assassination as unworthy of our American democratic process,” Price said.

Price provided a roster from a Georgia Southern University intramural basketball team that lists both Zorotovich and Zach Louis, who is Staton’s campaign manager.

Louis declined to answer questions by telephone Tuesday, but he e-mailed the campaign’s official response to several questions. Regarding Zorotovich, the e-mail reads: “He is not connected to the Staton Campaign. The fact that his name is on an intramural roster along with that of other students including Zach Louis does not connect him to our campaign.”

Attempts by The Telegraph to locate Zorotovich for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful. Though he is listed as having a Marietta address, he does not have a listed phone number.

One thing that appears to be clear is that Senator Staton does stand behind other attacks against Price. A website that bears the disclaimer “Paid for by Staton for Senate” reiterates some of the same allegations.

Example 3 is the Democratic Primary in Congressional District One for the honor of being whipped by Republican Jack Kingston in the General Election. Lesli Rae Messinger is calling on her Primary opponent Nathan Russo to exit the primary.

Messinger says Russo doesn’t have Democratic endorsements and can’t beat Kingston, who is seeking a 10th term.

“Nathan Russo,” Messinger said in a news release “… needs to step down immediately.”

She called Russo, a retired businessman who lives on St, Simons Island, a “supposed Democratic candidate.”

Messinger, who has an antiques business and who lives on Skidaway Island, says she is backed by Bill Gillespie, Kingston’s 2008 opponent.

But Russo’s not budging.

“Look at the calendar on my website, and you’ll find lots of campaign events,” he said.

Contending he’s been too busy with other things to round up endorsements, he says Messinger has things backward.

“You can’t win in this district by appealing just to Democrats,” he said. “You need to appeal to Republicans and independents. I can do that because I’m more conservative than Kingston when it comes to cutting government waste.”

Messinger countered that Russo wants to “legalize marijuana,” re-instate the draft and “eliminate and reduce” federal farm subsidies.

“I’m certain Mr. Russo means well,” she said. “However, he seemingly has no idea that marijuana often leads to more serious addictions and, ultimately, death.”

Speaking of political cage death matches, former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon will take another shot at the title bout United States Senate from Connecticut.

This time it’s the seat being vacated by Sen. Joe Lieberman, the one-time Democratic vice presidential nominee and later self-declared independent. In 2010 it was seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd. McMahon is again casting herself as the outsider, and her opponent as a polished establishment pol.

But she’s hardly the upstart underdog this time. She enjoyed a nearly 2-1 edge in delegates over former Rep. Christopher Shays at the state’s Republican convention in May. The most recent statewide poll of registered Republicans showed her with 59 percent to 30 percent for Shays heading into the Aug. 14 primary.

Shays’ supporters, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and GOP strategist Karl Rove, say McMahon can’t win in November in a Democratic-leaning state like Connecticut. Rove said she had her chance in 2010 and said it’s now time to support someone with experience.

At the debate, Shays went after her record running WWE, bringing up everything from wrestler deaths to how her husband, Vince McMahon, demanded that a female wrestler remove her clothes and bark like a dog on stage during a now-infamous skit.

“Her work, her ownership of WWE, does not qualify her for a second to be the next United States senator,” he said. “The question is, who has the experience, what are they going to do when they get elected and how are they going to get it done. And I know how to get it done because I’ve done it.”

Walter Jones notes that after years in the wilderness in a solidly-Democratic state, Republicans are now the cool kids on the block.

Well, in Georgia politics, suddenly it’s cool to be a Republican. So much so, that in multiple counties all of the candidates qualified to run under the GOP standard, including dozens of incumbents who switched parties.

Considering elections are won by attracting large numbers, Republicans might be expected to welcome the newcomers with open arms. Their hesitation comes from fears of infiltration by the insincere.

Stalwarts even have a quaint name for those who get elected but don’t always hew the party line in Congress or the legislature, RINOs for Republican In Name Only.

Accusations of false-flag candidacies are popping up regularly this summer.

Here are just a few examples, starting with the only two statewide contests.

Pam Davidson endorsed the Democrat after she lost the 2008 GOP nomination for Public Service Commission to Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, the eventual winner and a former Democratic elected official. Now, she’s running for a different seat on the commission, and her bona fides are being questioned by the incumbent Stan Wise she is trying to unseat.

In the other PSC race this year, Matt Reid is running for the GOP nomination against incumbent Chuck Eaton. As Eaton’s campaign consultant Todd Rehm notes on his blog, Georgia Pundit, Reid has voted consistently in Democratic primaries for the last 12 years and contributed to Barack Obama’s campaign.

“I believe that Georgia Republicans will think that the answer to our economic problems is not a liberal Democrat cross-dressing as a Republican who wants to get into office and push a radical Obama green agenda that costs ratepayers and businesses in Georgia more money every month,” Rehm wrote.

Conasauga Judicial Circuit Public Defender Mike McCarthy has been reappointed for four more years by W. Travis Sakrison, Executive Director of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council.

In Bibb County, voters who choose a party primary ballot on July 31st cannot vote in the other party’s election for Board of Education on August 21st or potential runoff on September 18th.

“The judge made the ruling that the parties can not alter from the time the voter begins voting,” said [elections supervisor Elaine] Carr.  “If they vote on July 31st, that party stays through September 18th.”

If Victor Hill is elected Clayton County Sheriff again, the suspension of his POST certification following indictment on 37 counts may prevent him from actually serving.

Special elections to fill two seats on the Dawsonville City Council have been changed to November.

The Dawsonville City Council voted unanimously Monday to change the date for the special election to fill the unexpired terms of two council posts.

The special election has been moved from Sept. 18 to Nov. 6.

Candidates wishing to seek one of the two seats must qualify between Aug. 28-30.

The special election is required following the resignations of James Grogan and Calvin Byrd, both of whom resigned to run for mayor following the death of Joe Lane Cox.

Grogan is now acting mayor.

The two vacant council positions have been temporarily filled by Caleb Phillips and Angie Smith. The changing of the dates means both must serve for an additional two months.

Lake Park Mayor Ben Futch has resigned following a physical altercation with the Mayor Pro Tem.

witnesses said the outgoing mayor cited “political forces that were pressuring him” and stated that “he no longer wanted to be a divisive element in the community.”

With the city’s mayoral job vacated, mayor pro-tem Sandy Sherrill will be acting mayor of the city. Tension between Sherrill and Futch escalated into a physical altercation on June 8. Though the incident was brief and no charges were filed, it has done nothing to assuage tensions that some say started when Futch took office.

“I think we need to do a forensic search on their computers before anyone takes over,” said former Police Chief Bert Rutland who was fired along with the city clerk and fire chief in January immediately following Futch’s swearing-in ceremony.

In Carroll County, two Republicans will meet in the Primary for Coroner and the winner will face Democratic retread repeat candidate LaDonna Fryar in November. Incumbent Sammy Eady is running as a Republican for the first time since first being elected in 1988 and faces former Carroll County deputy Jamie Godbee on July 31st.

Jimmy Bobo’s recycling company will leave the Ball Ground Recycling facility after a US Bankruptcy Court judge ordered him to vacate.

Under the lease agreement, the land and equipment involved in the $18 million project bonded by the RRDA becomes the county’s property.

Bobo, of Ball Ground Recycling, filed May 25 for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Cherokee County backed an $18.1 million bond issue through its Resource Recovery Development Authority in 2007 to finance consolidation of Bobo recycling operations, which were spread around the county, into an industrial area.

At the time, because of intense residential construction growth, the decision looked attractive, county commissioners have said, but in hindsight, they all agree it was a bad move.

Commissioners say the reason the $18.1 million in bonds were issued to consolidate Bobo’s mulching operations was because they were under such heavy pressure to move Bobo from his sites near rapidly growing residential areas.

In a forum sponsored by the Cherokee County Republican Party, State Rep. John Carson and challenger Martin Hawley both said they would support legislation recognizing personhood as beginning at conception.

The candidates also agreed if elected, they each would support the piece of legislation regarding the right to life — a resolution that gives personhood status to all humans from conception to natural death.

For Carson, it was a personal issue, as his daughter, who is now 4, was born at 28 weeks old. He voted for the bill this past year that limited abortions from 26 weeks to 20 weeks.

“She hung onto life in the NICU,” he said. “I was already pro-life, but this more than anything else helped make my decision for me.”

Hawley said he, too, believes life begins at inception and every life must be considered precious.

Carson and Hawley also agree on their opposition to T-SPLOST.

Georgia Power and Atlanta-based Solar Design & Development have been recognized by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) for the development and installation of 19 megawatts of solar power generation throughout Georgia.

The 19 MW of solar capacity, part of Georgia Power’s 50 MW large-scale solar initiative approved last year by the Georgia Public Service Commission, will be added to the company’s growing renewable energy portfolio. Georgia Power has contracted to purchase the output for the next 20 years.

Ends & Pieces

Porsche Cars North America paid $34.3 million for 56.2 acres on which it will build its new headquarters at Aerotropolis on the site of the old Ford plant in Hapeville.

Porsche also announced that June sales were up 18% over the same period in 2011, largely on the strength of sales of the new Boxster. Here’s a gratuitous photo of the new Boxster.

Shares of Volkswagen, AG, shot up on news that it will complete its merger with Porsche.

Shares in Volkswagen AG soared higher on Thursday after Europe’s biggest automaker announced a deal to complete the takeover of sports car manufacturer Porsche by the end of the month, which the company said will result in savings of some (EURO)700 million ($880 million) per year.

Volkswagen’s shares were up 5.9 percent at (EURO)135.75 in Frankfurt trading. The Wolfsburg-based company announced Wednesday night that Porsche will become a fully integrated brand as of Aug. 1 – joining others such as Audi, Volkswagen, Seat, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Bentley.

On July 23d, the Blu-Ray release of Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season One will be promoted with screenings in full-size theaters to show off the remastering of the series. Two episodes from Season One, Where No One Has Gone Before and Datalore will be shown.

Gerry Brown, of Cumming, Georgia, will handle one short leg of the Olympic Torch Relay in Winchester, England.

The selection process started out during a group meeting at Coca-Cola Refreshments IT Department.

“We were asked if anyone would be interested in applying to carry the torch and folks pointed at me, so I went ahead and filled out the required paperwork,” Brown said.

Brown didn’t think he would be chosen, but says he is thrilled he was picked.

Older sister Ronica Searcy proudly talks about her brother.

“He served in Desert Storm, is a great father and husband, son, and an outstanding brother,” Searcy said. “We are thrilled that he was selected to be a torch bearer. He honors our family and we are very proud of him.”

Searcy describes her brother as, “awesome and amazing.”

Brown believes serving others is the most important aspect of his life.

In addition to working for Coca-Cola Refreshments, Brown is the founder and former president of the non-profit organization, “Because We Care,” that provide community assistance to poor, distressed and underprivileged people.

Jerri Peterson and Thierry Laurent, both of Roswell, also carried the Olympic Torch.

Peterson and Laurent, who are both information-technology professionals, were nominated by their co-workers at InterContinental Hotels, which is providing all the Olympic lodging. As one of the primary sponsors of the Games, the corporation had torchbearer slots to bestow on worthy candidates within its ranks. Among Peterson’s many community-minded activities that got her nominated are her chairmanships of both the Empty Stocking Fund campaign and Project Healthy Grandparents as well as participating in fundraisers for the likes of Susan G. Komen, March of Dimes, Habitat for Humanity and the American Heart Association.

She and her husband, Rick, have been a host family for children of international colleagues through the American Youth Foundation, and she mentors elementary-age girls.

Laurent is a real-life example of dealing with physical adversity.

“I have Parkinson’s Disease and am currently participating in a study group with Emory University and the Atlanta chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association,” he said.

“In addition, I have had discussions with fellow co-workers who have PD, or their family members, to help them understand how I cope with the disease. Mostly it has been co-workers who have family members who have PD, and they are trying to figure out how to best work with them and make sure they take medicines and exercise.”

19
Jun

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

“25037” is a bouncing baby boy boxer, who is available for adoption today from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. The shelter is open for adoptions from 8 AM to 4 PM Tuesday through Saturday and from noon to 4 PM on Sunday.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Much has been made of the consent order between Christopher Brady, who took Speaker Ralston to Europe to learn about high-speed trains, and the State Campaign Finance Commission. Under the consent order, Brady will pay a $300 fine for failing to register as a lobbyist on time and for reporting the trip expenditure late.

I believe that the consent order reflects two real problems with the Commission’s case.

First, the Ethics in Government Campaign Finance Act §21-5-70(5)(A) defines “lobbyist” as

Any natural person who, either individually or as an employee of another person, is compensated specifically for undertaking to promote or oppose the passage of any legislation by the General Assembly, or any committee thereof, or the approval or veto of legislation by the Governor;

There are several other subsections, but the unifying theme is that lobbyist are people who promote or oppose the passage of legislation. The logical extension of that definition is “no legislation, no lobbying, no problem” and that was the position taken by Brady’s lawyers. Had the Commission gone forward, it risked having that definition parsed by a court and there’s a real chance that Brady might have prevailed on that argument.

The second problem is that the Commission may lack the resources to pursue three major cases against the kind of people who are able to hire McKenna Long to defend them.

Non-binding: Do you support ending the current practice of unlimited gifts from lobbyists to state legislators by imposing a $100 cap on such gifts?


77.25% of you answered yes, while 18.24% answered no, and 4.5% were undecided. There’s a little more analysis here, and I’ll post some more results this afternoon.

Dennis O’Hayer has an interview with Mike Raffauf, the lawyer representing the Green and Constitution parties in a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Georgia’s strict ballot access law.

Eight Hispanic candidates are running for office in Georgia this year, the highest number ever. One of those candidates is Linda Becquer Pritchett, a niece of a famous salsa singer; Pritchett is running for State House District 63 in Clayton, Fayette, and Fulton counties.

The US Department of Justice has approved district maps for Bibb County Board of Education seats. Bibb County decided earlier this year to qualify candidates for board seats elected this year based on the old maps and it is uncertain whether the old maps or new maps will be used.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said he has talked to several people in the community who have expressed an interest in making sure the new maps are used this year.

“I would fully support that effort,” he said. “It’s the proper and right thing to do for the community.”

If the matter is taken to court over using the new maps, it could reopen qualifying and delay elections, [school board member Gary] Bechtel said.

Robert Brooks, District Attorney for the Tallapoosa Circuit, will run for reelection in the Republican Primary.

“Justice delayed is justice denied. That is why I have made it a priority to secure grants to fund new resources for both victims and witnesses. I have added more victim advocates to help victims and witnesses navigate the complex court process,” Brooks said. “The word is out among the criminal defense attorneys that this office will not back down from the tough fights.”

Another area of focus for the District Attorney’s Office is combating the explosion of hyper-violent juvenile offenders. Brooks said it seems that offenders are getting younger and more violent. That is why he created an impact team to process juvenile cases.

“It is difficult to grasp, but you actually have juveniles who are literally one person crime waves.”

Bremen lawyer Jack Browning is opposing Brooks in the GOP Primary.

The Tallapoosa City Police Department and Pete Bridges, Mayor of Tallapoosa, are the first to announce endorsement of Jack Browning for district attorney.

“With Jack’s extensive experience working with and for local governments, he knows that public safety is vital to the well-being of our community and for the economic development in our county,” Mayor Bridges said.

Tallapoosa Chief of Police, Scott Worthy, added his support, “The Tallapoosa Police Department is 100 percent behind Jack Browning for district attorney.”

Browning currently is chief assistant public defender for Haralson and Polk counties. Earlier he served as the County Attorney for Haralson County, while also practicing law for the Bremen-based firm, Murphy, Murphy and Garner.

A couple things stand out here. First, I’ve never heard of a police department purporting to back a candidate before. Second, that Bremen law firm Browning used to work for bears the name of former Speaker Tom Murphy. The Tallapoosa Circuit comprises Haralson and Polk Counties.

Mayor Pete Bridges of Tallapoosa also endorsed Bill Carruth for state senate in his challenge to incumbent Senator Bill Heath. That seems like an awful lot of drama between Haralson and Polk Counties.

Senator Bill Heath, and challengers Bill Carruth and Jason “J.K.” Rogers, met in a debate hosted by the Paulding County Republican Women’s Club and moderated by the AJC’s Jim Galloway. T-SPLOST was a major issue in the discussion.

None of the State Senate candidates supported the TSPLOST, but Heath admitted to voting to put it on the ballot because he believes that the people should be able to make their own decision on the subject and that he should not make it for them.

Rogers agreed with putting it on the ballot, but he added, “The biggest concern I have, and I’d vote no, is because it will never work if each city and each county don’t agree with one another. You can’t have highways going through different counties and doing different things.”

When asked about alternative methods to solving the situation of Georgia’s lack of transportation funding, each candidate gave a different answer.

Carruth stood strongly against the TSPLOST, refusing to believe it is the last resort to solving the issue. He claimed that there is no definite answer right now but that there must be a collaborative effort between all departments to find one.

Heath disagreed with the many areas of transportation covered by the TSPLOST, saying that it would be more effective to focus on one area.

Rogers’ stance was that more community involvement and efficient leadership would trickle down to solve the issue.

Democratic Senator Vincent Fort (Atlanta) is complaining that constituents received letters saying that they have been removed from the voter rolls because the address at which they are registered no longer exists. The news was brought to the voters via USPS to the address that no longer exists. Fort said

“Either they’re incompetent and they did this unintentionally or they did this intentionally. I don’t know which one. At this point many of the people who got the letters don’t trust the Department of Registration and Elections, and neither do I.”

And I am left with the stunning realization that I agree with Senator Fort on something.

At a Brookhaven forum on T-SPLOST, Phil Kent took aim at the Beltline project that is to be funded by the sales tax increase:

“It’s not a congestion relief project, it’s not a traffic project. God bless them, it’s a nice real estate development project and if the city of Atlanta wants to do that, then by god why doesn’t the city of Atlanta pay for it itself.”

Atlanta Progressive News goes so far to the left that they meet Phil Kent coming around from the far right and also oppose the Beltline’s inclusion in T-SPLOST. APN’s take is that the Beltline is a development project that is designed to gentrify poor neighborhoods and will displace existing residents who are being asked to pay for the T-SPLOST.

Atlanta Progressive News has reported in depth for several years on how the Beltline is primarily a development, rather than a transportation, project, aimed primarily at raising property values and property taxes, thus gentrifying neighborhoods throughout Atlanta.

It is not speculation that the Beltline is a gentrification project.  Indeed, when the Beltline was first presented, and the funding mechanism for the Beltline was supposed to be a series of Beltline Tax Allocation District (TAD) bonds, the planned gentrification was built into the financing mechanism itself.

Furthermore, with sales taxes being a regressive form of taxation, meaning that they disproportionately burden working families, that means that Atlanta’s working families are now being asked to fund their own housing cost burden and possible displacement.

Phil Kent and Matthew Cardinale of APN are left with the stunning realization that they agree on something.

Power to the People

Stricter air quality standards from the US EPA will require less particulate from trucks, power plants, and other sources, and Atlanta is likely to be in compliance by the time the regulations are in full effect:

Jack Capp with the air protection branch of Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division says emissions have been going down in the Atlanta metro area for the past few years and are expected to continue dropping.

“On the books rules are going to drive emissions down quite a bit. That primarily is scrubbers that are being put on all the coal-fired power plants, large industrial boilers having additional pollution controls, as well as new cars and trucks that are a lot cleaner today.”

Lower natural gas prices have helped lower the average Georgia electric bill by $8 this month and are driving down gas bills. Also helping lower bills is the diversification of Georgia’s power portfolio to include more natural gas-powered generation, which results in part from actions of the Georgia Public Service Commission.

The Chairman of France’s Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission toured Plant Vogtle yesterday to learn about the new reactors being built there by Southern Company.

France generates 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear sources – the highest percentage of any nation – and is second only to the U.S. in the number of commercial nuclear power reactors.

Plant Vogtle’s $14 billion expansion represents the first new commercial reactors to be built in the U.S. in three decades, so it will be watched closely by other nations, he said.

In particular, the world will be watching to see if its operator – Southern Nuclear – is able to complete the project safely, on time and within budget.

“The U.S. has been the first nation to move on with nuclear, and it has the largest fleet,” he said. “It is a time when you need to show to the public that we can move on.”

Ends & Pieces

The Pew Center on the States says that Georgia should be saving more money to pay for healthcare expenses for retired employees.

“Actuaries recommend that they set aside in 2010 1.8 billion dollars for that liability. And they set aside about 400 million.”

[Pew spokesman David] Draine says the state still has time to save the money needed. But he says it will require state policymakers to make some tough choices.

They will have to decide whether to raise taxes, cut services or require state retirees and employees to pay more of their own healthcare expenses.

Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources is looking for volunteers to help with their statewide survey of bats.

As part of a long-term, nationwide survey, the DNR Wildlife Resources Division is enlisting volunteers to begin collecting acoustic data from Georgia bats in the wild this month. The effort will help better monitor changes in bat populations, particularly in the face of widespread threats such as white-nose syndrome.
The disease also often referred to as WNS has killed an estimated 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats.

Georgia’s 16 bat species eat insects only and use biological sonar called echolocation to navigate, communicate and find prey. The survey that wildlife biologist Trina Morris is organizing will ask volunteers to drive a 30-mile route or “transect” carrying equipment that can record and decipher bat calls by species.

Perhaps they can get Batdog to lend a paw. [That link contains some mild cursing in text.]

10
Apr

Georgia Political News for April 10, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Executive Branch Announcements

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

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

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

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

Campaigns and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brook Davidson is running for Hall County Probate Judge.

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

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

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

Ports

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

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

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

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

Random Remainders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12
Mar

Georgia Political News for March 12, 2012

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

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

Legislative News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Executive Branch

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

GOP District Conventions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presidential Election

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

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

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

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

Campaigns and Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local News

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

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

Solar Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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