Georgia Political News for April 3, 2012

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Apr

Georgia Political News for April 3, 2012

Sasha and Annie at Adopt a Golden

Sasha (left, 9 years old) and Annie (right, 11 years old) are senior Golden Girls available for adoption from Adopt A Golden Atlanta. They have lived together for several years and are very attached to each other, so they will be placed together as a pair. AGA is an awesome organization, through whom we adopted our dear, departed Henry, and through whom we are likely to become foster parents soon.

State and Local Politics

Governor Nathan Deal passed most of his legislative agenda, partly by keeping a low profile. Deal’s Chief of Staff Chris Riley told the AP:

 “The Legislature passed an agenda that is pro-jobs, pro-family, and you’ll start hearing him talk about it coming up. But it’s not his style to take credit for that. That’s not very Deal-esque.”

“A lot of governors have a tendency to use a stronger hand, whereas Gov. Deal is an individual who doesn’t lose sight of the greater good,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who has served in the Senate since 1994. “That sets him up to be a far better negotiator. Many times, you’ve had governors that basically drafted a bill and said, ‘This is my top priority,” and did not allow the bill to be amended.”

House Speaker David Ralston described Deal as respectful, receptive and deliberate in his weekly meetings with legislative leadership.

“He doesn’t try to dominate by force or personality. He more tries to win you over by the merit of his idea. But he’s also willing to listen to those that maybe have better ideas,” Ralston said.

But his willingness to abandon proposals that were not viable has helped him build a reputation as someone who is flexible and open-minded, said Essig.

“It’s only been two sessions, but he’s getting a track record of adjusting his policy proposals to account for new information based on the conversations he’s had,” Essig said. “It shows that advocating to the governor can have an impact on a case-by-case basis. The word around the Capitol is that he’s someone whose door is always open.”

Earlier this year, Gov. Deal spoke about his relationship with the General Assembly.

Walter Jones also counts Gov. Deal a winner this year, as well as Attorney General Sam Olens.

The Brookhaven Patch is running an online survey on whether Governor Nathan Deal will sign the Brookhaven incorporation bill; currently, it’s running 79-21 in favor of signing.

More than 200 marchers in Columbus took to the streets in memory of Trayvon Martin.

Masters week is causing traffic congestion in Augusta. Two-time Masters champion Tom Watson received the key to the City of Augusta from Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

In renegotiating the split of SPLOST proceeds, Whitfield County’s municipalities are split, with Dalton seeking to more than double its share, while the other cities are not seeking dramatic increases.

Campaigns and Elections

Haralson County voters will elect a County Commissioner for District 2 in a special election runoff on April 2d between Jamie Bennett who received 493 votes, and Lori Morgan who received 262 votes.

Flowery Branch will hold a runoff election between Jason Covert and Fred Richards today from 7 AM to 7 PM at City Hall, located at 5517 Main Street to fill the City Council seat vacated by former council member Kris Yardley.  Jason Covert and Fred Richards made the runoff.

Cynthia McKinney (D) will seek a ballot spot in the Fourth Congressional District on the Green Party ticket, offering a possible rematch against incumbent Congressman Hank Johnson (D-DeKalb). In 2006, Johnson held McKinney under 50% in the Democratic General Primary and won the runoff.

Cobb YRs will host a candidate debate for Senate District 6 tonight at 6:30 PM. Visit their Facebook page for more details and to R.s.v.p.

Woodstock Businessman Danny Dukes has announced that he may have something to announce some day soon. The actual announcement is that Dukes is considering running for Chairman of the Cherokee County School Board.

I have a great passion for the children of Cherokee County along with a desire for true public service.

In the coming days I will evaluate the opportunity to serve as School Board Chair and the challenges of creating a successful campaign. In pursuing this possibility, I pledge to rebuild the relationship with state and local leaders. A relationship that has recently been tarnished by Board members interested in a personal political future as opposed to what is best for all of Cherokee County.  I also pledge to put an end to teacher furloughs and other cuts that have negatively impacted the classroom and the core student educational process.

The Cherokee County School Board Chair must always place the interests of students, parents, and teachers first – all else second.

Danny’s pre-announcement announcement doesn’t mention it, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that he’ll be running as a Republican.

Larry Stanley, editor of the Henry County Citizen newsletter, is considering a run for the District 2 seat on the Henry County Board of Education. Again no mention of partisan affiliation; again, I’m betting GOP.

Mike Boyce is a nearly-30 year Marine Corps veteran who is running for Cobb County Chairman as a Republican.

Patty Walters Lane will run for Hall County Probate Judge.

State Rep. Chuck Sims (R-Ambrose) is not scared by the PeachTeaPAC calling him out as a RINO (Republian in Name Only). Sims suggests the organization is a vehicle for former Sen. Jeff Chapman to return to politics.

Sims derided Chapman as someone just trying to get back into politics after a defeat.

“I’ve won elections for 16 years. You’re talking about a loser, and you’re talking to a winner,” Sims said.

TIA/T-SPLOST Campaign


The first mailpieces in the campaign to pass the T-SPLOST are hitting mailboxes, paid for by the Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network, or MAVEN. The first piece hit my mailbox on Friday, with the second piece hitting Monday.

With all due respect to the geniuses in charge of this education campaign, the challenge is not to convince Atlantans that traffic is horrible; the challenge is to convince us that the T-SPLOST will actually reduce traffic.

PolitiFact rates MAVEN’s claim that Metro Atlanta residents spend 260 hours per year commuting “half true.”

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) has criticized the Cumberland Community Improvement District for donating $70,ooo to MAVEN on top of $300,000 previously given.

“For goodness’ sake, that’s so starkly inappropriate,” Ehrhart told the Marietta Daily Journal. “It’s using tax money.”

While MAVEN, which is headed by developer Bob Voyles, CEO of Seven Oaks Company, is serving as the “education” arm of the transportation tax campaign, another group headed by David Stockert of Post Properties is running the “advocacy” arm of the campaign called Commuters for Transportation Mobility, which aims to raise $6.8 million of which $5 million has already been raised, [Cumberland CID Chairman Tad] Leithead said.

“All of those funds are coming from the business community,” Leithead said.

Ehrhart said Leithead is fooling no one.

“That’s disingenuous and beneath them. It’s word games,” Ehrhart said. “I love what (Samuel) Alito said: ‘We’re not stupid’ is the new catch phrase in the Obamacare hearing. To the CIDs: ‘We’re not stupid.’ These aren’t educational ads, they’re political ads.”

Ehrhart said it would take an act of the state legislature to stop the CIDs from what they are doing.

“That’s something that will have to be looked into next year,” Ehrhart said. “I thought they got the message on that. That’s a shame. It’s certainly using tax money to advocate for (an election). I’m hoping they’re not successful in buying it.”

Ehrhart said CIDs can have a positive role in society, but funneling their tax dollars to promote a referendum is not one of them.

“This is not a part of their role,” he said. “Advocacy with tax money is wrong on so many levels, and I couldn’t disagree with them more on this.”

MARTA not so SMARTA

MARTA General Manager Beverly Scott says the agency will have to make significant cuts to service because the legislature did not lift the 50/50 sales tax funding requirement for another three years. The 50/50 requirement requires that MARTA spend half its sales tax revenues on operations and half on capital expenditures. “We will have to gut significant parts of the service,” Scott told the AJC.

Energy News

Declining fuel costs for Georgia Power will lead to lower electric bills as the utility filed a request to lower it’s fuel rates with the Georgia Public Service Commission. The PSC will hear the case in June and the rate reduction is expected to become effective July 1st. Click here to read Georgia Power’s press release. Public Service Commissioners Chuck Eaton (R) and Stan Wise (R) also issued a press release, which you can read here.

Solar power firms complain that the legislature’s preservation of the Territorial Services Act makes Georgia’s business climate inhospitable for solar power firms. In other states, property owners may finance solar power installations through “Power Purchase Agreements” under which a third party finances and installs solar panels and sells the power to the property owner. Georgia Power takes the position that doing so infringes upon their right to provide all electrical services within the territory they serve.

The solar companies argue that not allowing PPAs locks them out of Georgia. But PPAs are only one means of financing a solar installation. A property owner can still lease the panels or pay over time to a bank, financing firm, or solar power company.

Ironically, it’s the low cost of electricity in Georgia that some solar firms say prevents them from entering the market, rather than state law.

Some local governments are apprehensive about declining revenues from the abolition of the state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, part of which was sent to local governments.

“We’ve heard counties and cities saying they’re glad [the energy tax] is going away and we can absorb the loss. Others are saying that they need the tax,” said Clint Mueller, legislative director for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia. “It’s a mixed bag.”

Others heralded the measure as helping create jobs:

Dalton Mayor David Pennington pushed for years for a repeal of the state’s sales tax on energy used in manufacturing.

“This had to be done to make our state more competitive,” he said. “For us, repealing this tax was our No. 1 issue this year.”

Rail Notes

The first video of the Norfolk Southern Heritage locomotive painted in the colors of the old Southern Railway is online. The good stuff starts at 3:42 in.

Norfolk Southern’s office train, pulled by historic FP7s has been sighted recently in Augusta on its annual outing to the Masters and is rumored to be bound for Birmingham next.

Norfolk Southern will begin construction on a new intermodal terminal in Charlotte, NC.

Random Notes

Veterans serving after 9/11 suffer a higher unemployment rate than non-veterans, according to statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Neither conservative nor liberal commentators like the state sales tax holiday. Alan Essig, of the (leftie) Georgia Policy and Budget Institute argues that the sales tax holiday does not increase sales but simply moves them to tax-favored dates. Kelly McCutchen of the (rightie) Georgia Public Policy Foundation argues that the sales tax holiday distorts market forces, which should be the determinants of consumer behavior.

Unseasonably warm temperatures may be responsible for a high number of sea turtle strandings on Georgia’s coast.

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