Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 2, 2012


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 2, 2012

“25427” is a tiny little puppy seeking a forever home. She is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter and is classified as a “Pit Bull” in the bizarre shelter dog taxonomy that recognizes three breeds of dogs over 20 pounds – pit bull, shepherd, and labrador. I’m thinking more hound dog.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is the voter registration deadline for the July 31st General Primary and Non-Partisan Election. To check your registration details, visit Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s website and use the MVP tool; after confirming your details, you can view a sample ballot or download an absentee ballot application.

Candidates and political professionals will be relieved to know that the election is all downhill from here, according the the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

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Candidates in this year’s election have a campaign contribution disclosure due June 30th, but it’s not too late, as the grace period for filing ends on July 9th. The State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission will be closed on July 4th, as will most government offices.

Rick Thompson & Associates has a new campaign compliance package that includes a guarantee of accuracy on work they perform.

R. Thompson & Associates, Georgia’s leading ethics and governmental compliance consulting firm, has launched a new, annual compliance service package for candidates, structured to meet the proportionate needs of municipal, county and state filers.

Founder Rick Thompson, former Executive Director of the Georgia Ethics Commission and 20-year veteran of campaign finance and ethics disclosures, said, “We have made extensive compliance expertise and experience available to all candidate filers at an affordable price.”  Through strategic legal partnerships, R. Thompson & Associates is able to offer candidates unmatched accuracy and defense guarantees.

The rollout does not stop with Georgia candidates.  R. Thompson & Associates has organized its infrastructure and is launching its filing services in multiple states across the nation.

“In addition to prep, key data entry and review our firm offers ongoing consultative services within the packages,” says Thompson.

[Disclaimer: we will receive a commission on click-through sales by R. Thompson & Associates for any sales that result from clicking on their banner ads in our morning email or website. We would have run this announcement anyway, even though Thompson once subpoenaed us.]

IMPORTANT REMINDER: Any candidate in the July 31st election receiving a contribution of $1,000 or more, between July 1 and July 31st MUST report the contribution electronically or by facsimile within two business days of receipt to the Campaign Finance Commission. There is no grace period for late filing. [Campaign Finance Act §21-5-34(c)(2)(C).]

Also sliding downhill are the fortunes of the pro-T-SPLOST campaign in Metro Atlanta. A poll published by WBS-TV shows the tax increase slipping from 42% in favor and 45% opposed in late May to 38% in favor and 49% opposed.

House Bill 87, Georgia’s immigration reform bill authored by State Rep. Matt Ramsey, turned one year old yesterday. That’s because most new laws passed by the legislature have a July 1st effective date. The Gainesville Times discusses some of this year’s new crop of statutes.

Sweeping changes to Georgia’s criminal justice system that, among other things, will enhance the role of accountability courts are also beginning to take effect.

After signing the bill in May, Gov. Nathan Deal said, “This will pay dividends to taxpayers over and over, from the reduced cost to our prison system to the increase in the number of people who return to the workforce and support their families.”

Sentencing changes for theft, shoplifting and forgery will also take effect July 1.

Out-of-work Georgians also will soon see their benefits slashed nearly in half.

Another new law will require some people applying for welfare to pass a drug test, but it is likely to face a court challenge.

Walter Jones also summarizes new laws going in to effect:

Elder abuse: All staff and administrators must undergo a background check, and it becomes a crime for a caregiver or guardian to neglect a senior citizen or someone disabled. A second conviction of operating an unlicensed personal-care home is now a felony, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation takes jurisdiction over elder-abuse cases.

Vicious dogs: There are new procedures for a judge to determine if an attack qualifies a dog to be labeled vicious. If so, the judge can order it destroyed. Otherwise, the owner must keep the animal in a locked pen unless on a short leash and muzzled. The owner must also post a $50,000 bond and may only own one dog considered vicious. If there is a second attack, the owner is subject to a $5,000 fine and a year in prison.

Scrap metal: To cut down on the theft of wire, air-conditioner tubing and other metals, the legislature placed new requirements on companies that buy scrap. They must check the seller’s identification and see a receipt for the metal or a contractor’s work order for its removal. They must also take digital photographs of sellers and keep them on file. Payouts cannot be on the spot.

A CNN Poll shows that only 12% of registered Hispanic voters consider immigration the top issue, versus 21% who cite healthcare.

Another 19% picked unemployment, 17% said economic growth and 16% said the gap between the rich and poor was the biggest issue.

Among all American voters, not just Hispanic voters, immigration policies fall dead last in the Gallup list, behind health care and economic issues. Twenty-one percent said the budget was most important, while 20% each said health care and economic growth were at the top. Five percent listed immigration as the biggest priority.

Apparently, the liberal media myth that a uniform Hispanic voting bloc exists is overblown.

The reasons that Hispanics give for choosing between Obama and Romney are just as diverse as the countries that they or their ancestors once called home, suggesting there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to courting the nation’s fastest-growing minority group.

The Latino vote isn’t monolithic or, really, a voting bloc. It includes a range of people with varying opinions. Among them are Republican-leaning Cubans in Florida, new Mexican immigrants and longtime descendants of Spanish settlers in the Southwest, and Democratic-tilting Puerto Ricans in the East.

Immigration policy would seem to be the natural top issue for these voters, except that nearly two-thirds of Hispanics are born in the U.S. Their priorities are the same as the general population – jobs, the economy, education and health care.

Hispanics traditionally have leaned Democratic. But a recent Pew Research poll indicates that Hispanics also are the fastest-growing group of independent voters, with 46 percent now shunning a party label compared with 31 percent six years ago. Such results only underscore how diverse Hispanics are and the challenges for the political parties.

Republicans have noted that under Obama, the Hispanic unemployment rate is higher than the national average. And Hispanics’ median household income fell 7 percent between 2000 and 2010, from $43,100 to $40,000, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

In the Sixth Congressional District, where I live, Democrat Jeff Kazanow is one of two Dems running against incumbent Republican Congressman Tom Price. Kazanow advocates a single-payer healthcare system:

“We need to get control over health care,” said Kazanow. “It’s a right, not a privilege. We have the best health care system in the world for those who can afford it, but we have 20 (million) to 60 million people who have little or no access.”

State Senator Bill Hamrick, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is on the short list for a Superior Court judgeship in the Coweta Circuit.

Attorney General Sam Olens spoke at the rally by Americans for Prosperity against Obamacare on Friday at the State Capitol.

“It was a huge loss to the country,” said Olens, referring to the 5-4 decision upholding the health care reform act that passed in Congress in 2010. “This is an issue that can only be solved by a new president.”

The rally participants, many of whom waved flags and wore Tea Party t-shirts, whooped and applauded. One man wore a yellow sandwich board sign that read: “SCOTUS screwed us. Hands off my health care.”

The AJC discusses possible impacts from the Obamacare decision related to expansion of Medicaid.

“The truth is that millions will continue not to be covered,” said Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, who led the state’s fight against the law. “You have a huge tax increase without necessarily helping many of the folks you intended to help.”

How close Georgia comes to universal coverage, however, is largely up to the state itself, and Georgia’s elected officials now have a profoundly important decision to make: Will they expand Medicaid by hundreds of thousands of people, jacking up the cost of an already costly program, or will they undermine the health care overhaul by removing one of its pillars?

Congratulations to the City of Peachtree Corners, which became Georgia’s newest municipality:

Just moments after midnight, the Peachtree Corners City Council met to bring in a sweeping set of regulations intended to keep things flowing smoothly for the town of 38,000.

The meeting bridged a weekend of festivities to shepherd in the new city, with ceremonies to christen the new government set for Sunday.

The 40-year-old community, designed as Gwinnett’s first live-work-play development, has had a long road to cityhood, clinched in November when 58 percent of voters approved a “city lite” form of government, limiting operations to planning and zoning, code enforcement and solid waste.

But it will take a little more time before the new City Council completely takes the reins, Mayor Mike Mason said.

A moratorium on planning and zoning will continue for another month or so to allow for state laws and procedures to be implemented, and leaders plan to sign an agreement with the county government to continue code enforcement through the county police until a vendor can be picked to manage the city activities. Trash, Mason said, likely won’t be tackled until the beginning of next year.

Cobb Commission Chair Tim Lee, whom I expect to be defeated for reelection this month,  asked his colleagues to approve a $350,000 salary study to determine if county employee pay is competitive; the Commission said no.

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers and challenger Brandon Beach met in a debate last week. Beach told the audience that “the state needs less government, more local control and lower taxes for economic development.” I agree with that sentiment but don’t understand how Beach squares that with his outspoken support of the T-SPLOST, which would deliver more government, less local control, and higher taxes. Rogers opposes the T-SPLOST tax increase. Over-under on this race is 60% for Rogers.

Rogers said, going forward the state doesn’t need to approve the proposed regional transportation penny proposed on the July 31 ballot, calling it an $8 billion tax increase that would kill jobs.

Beach said a recent state study showed Georgia is $60 billion behind in transportation infrastructure.

“I don’t like all that transit in there, but a penny dedicated to 157 projects you know you’re going to get delivered, I can support that,” he said. “My opponent supported it twice but now he said he doesn’t like the project list.”

Rogers said he thinks the measure is a “total waste of money,” but he trusts the voters and that’s why he supported enabling legislation to put it on the ballot.

Rogers said the government gets half of what workers make so it should be able to find the money for transportation. Beach said transportation projects don’t get half of what taxpayers pay and the state relies on gas taxes for roads, which has decreased over the past three years, and federal money comes with massive red tape attached.

The AJC profiles Chip Rogers, calling this year’s Primary a “big challenge.”

Rogers, 44, is held up an icon of conservative values. But critics say he hasn’t hewed to those same values at home.

“The man that he claims to be as a state legislator doesn’t line up with what he is doing in his personal life,” Linda Flory, a 55-year-old homemaker from Ball Ground told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She said she’s become disillusioned by his “questionable ethics” and won’t vote for him again.

But Robert Usher, a Cherokee County school board member, called Rogers “a Christian” with “good values.”

Noting that the sports betting tapes were more than a decade old, Usher, 46, said, “think back when you were young. Haven’t you ever done something you aren’t proud of now?”

The Georgia Pundit over-under in the Sixth District State Senate race is 40% for Hunter Hill, with Josh Belinfante and Drew Ellenburg vying for second place and a slot in the runoff.

Three Republicans and a Democrat walk into a bar are running for Senate District 7. State Rep. Mark Hatfield will meet Tyler Harper and Rodney Vickers in the Republican Primary on July 31st. Advantage: Hatfield.

The Hall County Republican Party held a straw poll that shows Doug Collins with a narrow 42-40 lead over Martha Zoller in the Ninth Congressional District. Casino gambling drew support from 52% of the straw poll voters with 41% opposed. Resolution #5, the “Personhood Amendment” is supported by 63% of those casting ballots, with 26% against. T-SPLOST lost overwhelming in the straw poll, garnering only 28% to 63% opposed.

Candidates for Hall County Sheriff also addressed the crowd and spoke about the state’s sentencing reforms at the GOP forum that drew a standing-room only crowd.

One of the lengthiest discussions of the forum focused on the state’s new criminal justice reform law.

The sweeping law, which takes effect today, aims to keep nonviolent offenders out of the state’s prison beds by changing sentencing requirements for theft and burglaries and pushing rehabilitation for repeat drug offenders.

Glynn County residents will choose a new Sheriff this year; both Republican candidates are currently serving as senior members of the current sheriff’s staff.

Blake Aued at the Athens Banner-Herald checked local candidates’ criminal records.

Camden County will see Republican Primaries for Sheriff, Tax Commissioner, County Commission District 5, as well as House District 180’s cage death match between incumbent Republican Jason Spencer and challenger Adam Jacobson.

Candidates for the Twelfth District Congressional seat met at a debate moderated by Phil Kent.

Evans attorney Wright McLeod accused Augusta businessman Rick Allen of “benefiting from stimulus funding” used for one of his construction projects.

Allen fired back that the mortgages the real estate attorney closes on to “put food on the table” were being bought “every day by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae,” the federal housing agencies.

Allen levied a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission over McLeod’s financial disclosures.

Moderator Phil Kent, a former editorial page editor for The Augus­ta Chronicle, gave state Rep. Lee Anderson a chance to address the role of the Federal Re­serve Bank, which Anderson confused with federal revenues in a Statesboro debate.

“I would believe that they need to be audited annually so that we would know exactly what they are doing,” Anderson said.

Kent asked McLeod to explain why a Republican would vote for Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson in 2008 or make a large contribution to Rob Teilhet, a former Democratic candidate for Georgia attorney general – points raised in earlier debates.

“What’s not being said is that I’ve donated to many, many Republican campaigns,” McLeod said.

Asked about her recent allegation that McLeod was “tracking” her by filming her recent speech to a Republican women’s group, Dublin lawyer Maria Sheffield said she appreciated the other candidates’ unwillingness to seek “gotcha” moments on film to use against one another.

“If someone is behaving that way, I think it’s perfectly OK for me to put it out there,” Sheffield said.

Albany candidates met in a Town Hall meeting sponsored by City Commissioner Jon Howard.

Georgia Power filed rate decreases totalling $567 million with the Georgia Public Service Commission, which is expected to approve the rate decrease, which will total about 6% for the average ratepayer.

Bits & Pieces

Georgia’s Reese Hoffa won the Olympic trials in shotput and heads to his third summer Olympics. Hoffa entered the 2008 summer games as the reigning world champion, but this is his last shot(put) at a medal.

Angelo Taylor, an Albany native who ran for Georgia Tech, qualified for the summer Olympics in the 400-meter hurdle, and heads to his fourth summer games. Ty Akins from Bainbridge missed making the team in the 110 hurdles.

The Occupy hippies will hold a national meeting in Philadelphia this week. Pro-tip for the hippies: avoid Philly sports fans, they’re vicious.

“This is ‘do or die,’ ” he said. “If I want to end my career Olympic-wise with a medal, I’ve got to get after it.”

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