Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 2, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 2, 2015

The first recorded reference to Groundhog Day was in 1841; the first Punxsutawney observance was in 1870.

The first recorded reference to Groundhog Day was in 1841; the first Punxsutawney observance was in 1870.

Atlanta City Council met for the first time on February 2, 1848.

On February 2, 1870, the Georgia General Assembly ratified the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

On February 2, 1932, Al Capone was sent to federal prison in Atlanta.

On February 2, 1988, the Georgia Senate ratified the 22d Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides that pay raises for Members of Congress shall not go into effect until the next term.

Get Ready to Vote

In-person early voting for the “SEC Primary” will begin on Monday, February 8, 2016 in many locations.

Advanced, in-person voting in Cobb begins Feb. 8 but anyone can request a mail-in ballot at any time.

Georgia is one of seven Southern states — the others being Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia — holding its presidential primaries on March 1, leading many to refer to the contest as the “SEC Primary,” named after the collegiate athletics’ Southeastern Conference.

According to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office, the SEC primary will be the largest group of Southern states in a presidential primary since Super Tuesday in 1992.

“Because of the SEC Primary, candidates are drawn here much earlier to learn about issues important to our state and Georgia citizens, such as our agricultural industry, ports, military installations, and thriving technology and manufacturing industries,” Kemp said in a news release. “It’s important we make sure every Georgian knows about the SEC Primary on March 1, 2016. The larger the voter turnout, the greater the impact Georgia will have in future presidential primaries.”

Advanced voting for Georgia’s presidential primary begins Monday, Feb. 8, at three locations around the county. From Feb. 8 through Feb. 26, voters can cast ballots at three locations around Marietta:♦ The Cobb Board of Elections’ main office at 736 Whitlock Ave., open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday;

♦ The Switzer Central Library at 266 Roswell St., open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; and

♦ The Cobb Senior Wellness Center at 1150 Powder Springs St., open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

On Saturday, Feb. 20, each of these three locations will be open to voters from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

During the final week of advanced voting, Feb. 22-26, additional advanced voting locations will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at four locations around the county:

♦ The East Cobb Government Service Center at 4400 Lower Roswell Road in east Cobb;

♦ The South Cobb Community Center at 620 Lions Club Drive in Mableton;

♦ The Boots Ward Recreation Center at 4845 Dallas Highway in Powder Springs; and

♦ NorthStar Church at 3413 Blue Springs Road in Kennesaw.

Sign into the Secretary of State’s MVP system to check your local early voting options or check with your county voter registration and elections office.

If you live in Tucker, you can begin voting for the first-ever Mayor and City Council beginning March 8, 2016. Locations include:

DeKalb County Board of Elections
4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 300
Decatur, GA 30032
Phone: 404-298-4020

The Gallery at South DeKalb Mall
2801 Candler Rd
Decatur, GA 30034

Tucker Recreation Center
4898 LaVista Rd
Tucker, GA 30084

We’ll update with additional information when it’s available. If you have any questions, please contact the DeKalb County Board of Elections at 404-298-4020.

Click here for complete information on early voting locations in DeKalb County.

Warner Robins approved a new voting precinct change that will likely take effect for the November 2017 city elections.

Under the Gold Dome

Senate Committee Meetings

8:00 AM APPROP. – Crim. Justice Sub. 307 CLOB
1:00 PM APPROP. – Education Sub. MEZZ 1
1:00 PM APPROP. – Transportation Sub. 341 CAP
2:00 PM APPROP. – Comm. Hlth Sub. 341 CAP
2:00 PM APPROP. – Insurance Sub. 123 CAP
3:00 PM APPROP. – Higher Ed. Sub. 341 CAP

House Committee Meetings

9:00 AM RULES 341 CAP
1:00 PM W&M Tax Reform Sub 133 CAP
1:00 PM State Govenment Admin.n Sub 506 CLOB
1:30 PM W&M Public Finance & Policy Sub 133 CAP
2:00 PM Appropriations Health Sub 406 CLOB
3:00 PM Public Safety Sub of Approp. 515 CLOB
3:00 PM Appropriations G’l Gov’t Sub 415 CLOB

Senate Rules Calendar

SB 193 – Crimes and Offenses; family violence battery; change penalty provisions (As Introduced) (Substitute) (JUDYNC-54th)
SB 243 – Georgia Judicial Retirement System; preservation of rights by certain persons; change certain provisions (As Introduced) (RET-4th)


One of the best ideas of the year is also likely to go nowhere in the General Assembly. State Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs) has introduced House Bill 832, which would require a criminal conviction before a civil forfeiture action results in the authorities seizing your property. It actually works by staying civil forfeiture proceedings until after a criminal conviction, so I think law enforcement could seize your property, but they would be prevented from liquidating it until after a conviction.

I suspect law enforcement will oppose Turner’s bill, arguing civil forfeiture is an important crimefighting tool.

This is a national issue, and in November 2015, the Washington Post reported that total annual property lost to civil forfeiture – that is, property seized under the suspicion of wrongdoing without necessarily producing a criminal conviction – exceeded the value of property stolen by burglars in the previous year.

Last year [2014], according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion.Armstrong claims that “the police are now taking more assets than the criminals,” but this isn’t exactly right: The FBI also tracks property losses from larceny and theft, in addition to plain ol’ burglary. If you add up all the property stolen in 2014, from burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and other means, you arrive at roughly $12.3 billion, according to the FBI. That’s more than double the federal asset forfeiture haul.

The issue isn’t about any particular law enforcement agency or public official being a bad guy. It’s about protecting the rights of all Americans. Civil forfeiture as a crime-fighting tool really came into its own during the “War on Drugs.” But if we’ve dialed back that war, shouldn’t we dial back some of the weapons?

State Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) has withdrawn his support for the bills he introduced to protect Confederate monuments after a self-inflicted media storm.

House and Senate members disavowed Benton’s comments in recent days, and the newspaper ( ) reported Monday that Benton withdrew his name as a sponsor from several measures, including a bill recognizing Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee’s birthday as state holidays.

“It was not my intention to create a situation whereby my comments would create a negative perception,” Benton said in a written statement on Monday. “Therefore, today I am withdrawing my sponsorship of HB 854, HB 855 and HR 1179 to allow the business of the House to move forward in an orderly manner.”

“I condemn commentary that would seek to reverse the progress that we have made in the last century and a half,” House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican, said in a statement. “While we are mindful of our history, the business of the General Assembly isn’t in rewriting or reinterpreting the past, but rather to focus on improving Georgia’s future. I appreciate Chairman Benton’s withdrawal of his sponsorship of the legislation.”

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) says he isn’t worried about possible consequences for ensuring a supply of medical cannabis oil for some Georgia families.

“We are providing as much input to these families and citizens that are properly registered with the state of where to obtain cannabis oil and providing them whatever assistance is needed to get it,” Peake said Thursday during an interview with Capitol Report.

That comment follows remarks by Deal that Peake could face legal consequences for transporting cannabis oil across state lines and into Georgia and that he should be prepared to accept the punishment, according to a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Deal’s comments followed Peake’s admission that he has transported cannabis oil from states where it is legal for medical purposes into Georgia on past occasions to help the families who are legally authorized to use it in the state.

Peake is behind a new effort now underway during the current 2016 legislative session to expand last year’s Haleigh’s Hope Act. House Bill 722 would legalize marijuana cultivation operations in Georgia and increase the number of illnesses on the list for cannabis oil treatment from eight to 17.

Peake also spoke to Atlanta Magazine about what’s happening.

Have you heard from law enforcement since you first admitted to doing this?
I’ve chatted with my lawyers. And I’ve just made sure that I wasn’t putting my family and my business at risk. They don’t think I’ve done that. I’ve heard from a very small minority who think I should be in jail, and I should resign. But the overwhelming response has been: “Absolutely, I’d do it for my child as well.”

I don’t want to go to jail. What I do want to do is show the insanity of our current laws that make criminals out of parents and citizens who only want to improve the quality of their life, for their child, or for themselves. And so, from that standpoint, it’s a risk that’s been worth taking.

Georgia and Iowa

Yesterday, too late for publication in the morning email, I received a writeup of a conversation between former Congressman Jack Kingston and Iowa Congressman Steve King about what was happening on the ground in Iowa ahead of last night’s caucuses. Here’s a bit where Cong. King predicted the Ted Cruz win and talked about how Iowa affects the nomination process going forward.

JK: Do you think Cruz can still win the nomination if he doesn’t win Iowa?

SK: I believe that Ted Cruz will win Iowa. I believe it will be a close race with Cruz and Trump, with Marco Rubio a distant third. But do I still think he can win the nomination if he doesn’t win Iowa? Yes. He’s built a nationwide campaign, he’s raised more money than anybody else, he’s kept more cash on hand than anybody else, and he’s well positioned to go through the early states—New Hampshire, especially South Carolina and then the SEC Primary from Texas, which will be a favorable state for him, all the way to the Atlantic seaboard.

So, if he doesn’t win Iowa, this isn’t over for Ted Cruz. He’s got a game plan to go all the way. He put that all together before he made the decision, or before he announced at least, to enter into the presidential race. And that’s not true for many of the other candidates that will not have the resources to get to the end if they don’t have a miracle finish here in Iowa.

So the race gets smaller quickly after Iowa. I think the candidates who are already registered and in in New Hampshire, their names will be on the ballot. But after New Hampshire, I think you’ll really see the field narrow up to a field of far fewer than the 17 that we started with.

Another Georgia connection to Iowa that involves Jack Kingston is that Kingston’s 2014 Senate consultant Jeff Roe is managing Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign. Before the caucuses, Roe predicted Cruz would win “outside the margin of error” of the polls. With a 3.4 point lead for Cruz over Trump, the victory wasn’t quite outside the 4-point margin of error for the last Des Moines Register poll, but it was a pretty bold call from Roe.

And here are some photos taken by a Georgian on the ground in Des Moines last night, where Ben Carson, Donald Trump, and Rick Santorum all spoke at the same precinct caucus.

Donald Trump Des Moines

Ben Carson Des Moines

Rick Santorum Des Moines

And the victory speech at Cruz HQ in Iowa.

K Frost Ted Cruz Victory

While the immediate importance of the caucus results is showing that Donald Trump can be defeated by a precision ground game, the takeaway is number of delegates isn’t that much of a win.

At the end of the day, Cruz took eight delegates for the nomination last night, while Trump and third-place finisher Marco Rubio took 7 each.

So, the symbolic significance of winning Iowa is huge, but the actual payoff not so much. Eventually, who gets the biggest delegate haul from the Hawkeye State will rest in the decision of supporters of candidate who drop out of the race.

Local Notes

The jury will decide soon in the trial of Chatham County Commissioner Yusuf Shabazz for traffic violations stemming from an alleged injury by Shabazz of a city maintenance worker.

Prosecution testimony showed that Ferguson, one of several flag people directing traffic on the stretch between Abercorn Extension and White Bluff Road, yelled loudly several times for the van to stop, then complained that the van had struck her.

Ferguson and fellow flagman Benjamin Smith III testified they recognized Shabazz as the driver from his restaurant at West Victory Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

But Smith told Burgess on cross examination that he told police at the scene he did not see Shabazz hit Ferguson, but said she said she was hurt.

And Timothy Creech said he saw Ferguson’s flag strike the side of the van.

When he told Shabazz he was calling police after he saw Ferguson struck, Shabazz “informed me he was Commissioner Shabazz and he took off.”


I Sense a Consulting Market

Last week, we noted a senior official in the Georgia Department of Education was fired for posts on Facebook, and sure enough, soon after, a Forsyth County public school principal was suspended for social media activity.

The decision Thursday seemed to stem from students speaking out online against Facebook posts the educator had shared. Most of the posts in question were wary of Islam and the LGBT community.

Between these posts and teachers resigning over Facebook rants, getting fired for posting a photo holding a beer,or dragged through the media and disciplinary meetings for a Halloween costume in questionable taste, it’s clear that management needs to take action that balances the Constitutional rights of teachers to free speech and to live their lives outside the classroom with the need for public schools to maintain their reputations and protect students from the questionable decisions of some educators.

Down the road, it will also be helpful for school systems to have in place clear, objective guidelines, disciplinary procedures, and predicable punishments, so that teachers can limit their own social media and protect their jobs.

Energy News

The Georgia Public Service Commission will decide soon whether to approve the mix of energy sources in Georgia Power’s production portfolio, according to Walter Jones of Morris News.

Georgia Power Co. intends to add more renewable energy sources as part of its long-term plan, but not enough for environmental groups.

The plan is awaiting approval from the Georgia Public Service Commission at the end of a series of hearings. The company submitted it late Friday.

It’s a 20-year plan that the commission must approve every three years. Like the previous plan, this one seeks to add 525 megawatts of generating capacity from renewable sources like wind, solar and biomass, effectively doubling the company’s current renewable capacity.

The document doesn’t specifically include a blueprint to comply with the federal government’s Clean Power Plan because company officials note that an ongoing court challenge could alter it significantly. However, the company does address other federal environmental regulations taking effect since the last plan in 2013.

“As we navigate the changing energy and environmental landscape, striking the right balance between reliability and affordability is crucial to protecting our customers,” said John Pemberton, senior vice president and senior production officer for Georgia Power. “We remain committed to best meeting customers’ needs today while maintaining the flexibility to provide a secure energy future for Georgia.”

The Commission will also address a settlement between the consortium financing two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle and the construction companies regarding cost overruns. Again from Walter Jones,

Georgia Power Company wants regulators to bless its share in more than $900 million in cost overruns incurred so far in building two nuclear reactors at the Plant Vogtle generating facility near Augusta.

The company denies its request amounts to approval of the overruns. At least one regulator said his agency can ignore the request until the reactors are generating electricity. And he estimates the impact of the request to be as high as $2.5 billion in added costs to electricity customers.

Company lawyers filed a formal request [] seeking approval by the Public Service Commission of the utility’s contract with the new builders.

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