Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections News for June 12, 2012


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections News for June 12, 2012

“Alice” is a 35 pound, 6-year old Roxboro Hound, who is heartworm positive and is available for adoption from the Walton County Animal Shelter. Any reader who adopts or offers to sponsor the approx. $500 cost for heartworm treatment for this dog can run a campaign announcement or banner ad in our email and on our website for one week for free.

Medical College of Georgia students have access to therapy dogs to help them deal with the stress of licensing exams.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections News

More than 78% of respondents in our online survey indicated that they will vote against the T-SPLOST on July 31st. While this is not by any means a random-sample, the heavy skewing of our readership toward conservative and Republican activists mean it has value for those reading tea leaves. Think of it more as being akin to a focus group of strong Republican voters. We’ll break down the results of this question by whether the respondents live in Metro Atlanta, gender, and affinity for a couple of issues in a post at noon today on

Don’t expect T-SPLOST advocates to admit it, but they should be panicking right about now.

Attorney General Sam Olens is warning local officials to be aware of, and follow, revisions to the state’s Open Records and Open Meetings laws.

“We routinely find officials that have been there for a long time that are not well-versed in what’s required under both the open meetings act and open records act,” Olens said.

Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) helped celebrate A Night to Honor Israel on Sunday night at the River Center for the Performing Arts. “Pastor Jay Bailey and the congregation of Solid Rock Church in Columbus brought together an incredibly diverse crowd bound together by our common support of the State of Israel. The message brought by Congressmen Lynn Westmoreland and Tom Price and Pastor John Hagee himself was unmistakable: America must continue to stand firm in support of Israel. I was proud to sponsor this event and stand with friends of different religious and political backgrounds to support this vital message,” said McKoon.

State Representative Mark Hatfield will open his Senate campaign headquarters tonight from 4:30 to 7:30 PM at the Las Palmas Shopping Center 512 City Blvd in Waycross, where they’ll serve refreshments. For directions or more information, call 912-283-3820.

In totally unrelated news, the United States Supreme Court has rejected another suit challenging President Obama’s ability to hold the office based on his citizenship. The decision was based on plaintiffs’ inability to demonstrate standing to sue.

State education officials are preparing for the next round of zero-based budgeting.

“Zero-based budgeting will most definitely be more labor intensive and time consuming, but with the cuts over the last several years, we have been reviewing the budget each year with heavy scrutiny,” said Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education. “Using zero-based budgeting this year will formally document much of what we have done these past few years.”

Douglas County might be the site of a new business park projected to cost $150 million.

Former Douglasville Mayor Mickey Thompson, who is running for State House District 66, has come under fire for claiming city pay for attending meetings that may not have met the adopted criteria for payment. Unlike most municipalities, Douglasville pays its mayor and city council members for attending actual meetings. At issue are meetings of the Georgia Municipal Association that took place by teleconference.

The most common of these was for a meeting of the Georgia Municipal Association’s Legislative Policy Council. This type of meeting is payable by ordinance, but because the hour-long meeting is often offered by teleconference, a literal reading of the city’s 2007 resolution would appear to mean that it isn’t eligible for compensation unless the meeting is attended in person.

That part of the ordinance reads “In Sections One, Two, Three and Four, ‘attended’ means the elected official’s personal physical presence at more than half the duration of a particular meeting or session; “attended’ does not mean or include participation via electronic means.”

Thompson said that he never submitted anything for payment that he didn’t feel fit within the ordinance.

“Those are covered. If you look at the ordinance (that) the city council adopted, if you are assigned to an organization of GMA where they have meetings, then you are paid for those,” Thompson said in a telephone interview. “Well, they are. It’s not my understanding – look at the ordinance, it clearly says if they are GMA meetings, which those are. The Legislative Policy Council is a part of the Georgia Municipal Association and those are meetings called by the Legislative Policy Council and during the General Assembly those meetings routinely happen and so, yes, they would be covered. Those meetings are always phone conference meetings. But they are meetings with established minutes that are held for the meetings and meetings today in this modern world are not always physical meetings.”

While GMA meetings are provided for in the ordinance, “by telephone” could mean that they are not covered. Are they allowable or do they fall under the “electronic means” exception for payment? Thompson said he never asked for interpretation by the city attorney because he was “certain they were proper.”

Candidates for Henry County Commission spoke to a forum sponsored by the Henry County Fraternal Order of Police.

In Augusta, candidates for Richmond County Sheriff attended two forums yesterday.

Charles Spahos resigned as Henry County Solicitor to become Executive Director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia.

The Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia is made up of six district attorneys and three solicitors general from throughout the state.

“It is the state agency that handles all of the support for prosecutors in the state,” said Spahos. “It is the financial agent for all of the district attorney offices. All of the state budget money goes through the council’s office.”

Spahos was selected by the nine-member council, which establishes policies and guides the day-to-day work of the council’s staff.

“I will manage the staff,” he said. “I will be in charge of financial budgets, training staff, and trial divisions along with assisting district attorneys with death penalty cases.”

Spahos credits his service as a member of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council for five years, and his work at the Georgia legislature for the appointment. He has seen numerous pieces of legislation he helped to pen become state law.

State Rep. Andy Welch (R-McDonough) was awarded a 2012 “Champion of Georgia’s Cities Award” by the Georgia Municipal Association for supporting Senate Bill 352.

“He was also recognized for supporting efforts to clarify the state’s existing open meetings/open records laws, and for his overall willingness to discuss municipal concerns with GMA throughout the session,” the [press] release adds.

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) also won an award from GMA, and was cited for her role in passage of the metal theft bill.

Snellville Police Chief Roy Whitehead was officially hired as City Manager with no additional pay.

“We greatly appreciate Rep. Welch’s strong support for city government and his willingness to always listen to our issues and concerns,” said GMA Executive Director Lamar Norton.

Professional golfer and 2009 Open Championship winner Stewart Cink (also a Georgia Tech grad) will appear at a dinner and meet-and-greet fundraiser for Kathy Schrader, candidate for Gwinnett County Superior Court, on June 20th. No word yet on whether Cink, a barbecue afficianado, will do the cooking.

Murray County voters of either party can register their preference for a sole commissioner or a multimember Board in the July 31st primary election.

The Augusta City Commission met privately but took no action on redistricting maps introduced by a federal judge for Commission and Richmond Board of Eduction seats.

The map was released by District Judge J. Randal Hall last week. Hall gave plaintiffs and defendants, who include the commissioners, until 5 p.m. Wednesday to comment on the map, which he drew in response to a federal lawsuit filed over the city’s inability to complete a new map based on 2010 census data.

Jackson and Commis­sioner Jerry Brigham said the group was generally pleased with the judge’s map.

The United States Department of Justice approved new maps for Chatham County Commission and school board districts.

There’s just one problem: The county already has held qualifying to run for the commission and the board, using the old districts.

County Attorney Jonathan Hart said the two governing bodies likely will hold upcoming elections in the old districts and use the new ones for future elections.

County elections supervisor Russell Bridges didn’t disagree, but said he’ll “seek the guidance” of the Secretary of State’s office, which supervises elections in Georgia.

It makes a difference; some perspective candidates would be ineligible — depending on which map is used — because they don’t live in the district where they want to run.

Justice Department approval was still pending when qualifying was held — as scheduled by the state — from May 23-25.

Dick Yarbrough offers his take on Chip Rogers’s former career as a sports handicapper:

Chip Rogers has competition in the Republican primary this year from Brandon Beach, president of the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce. As usual, the big money is with the incumbent. Thanks to lizard-loafered lobbyists, Rogers has more than $300,000 in campaign contributions. Beach has a whopping $1,853. But how badly will his stumbling and bumbling over these recent revelations about his career as a sports tout hurt Chip Rogers’ re-election chances? Voters in the 21st District will let us know in July.

In what is news to no reader of GaPundit, North Georgia has become a desolate wasteland for Democratic candidates. Their analysis is solid:

Republican leaders see the switch as a benefit bolstering the party’s strength in the state. But some local candidates say the new allegiance doesn’t change anything for voters, because local candidates are elected based on their performance and loyalty in a community.

“The party line doesn’t dictate the policies of the sheriff’s office,” said Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson, who switched from Democrat to Republican last year.

Democratic leaders say the switch chips away at local party strength and makes it more difficult to build a core in an already conservative area.

“In our area, Republicans take us for granted and Democrats write us off,” said Dade County Democratic Vice Chairman Tom McMahan.

Twenty years ago, you couldn’t find a Republican candidate running in a statewide election, said Georgia Republican spokesman Chris Kelleher. But in the ’90s the switch began.

McMahan, who also teaches U.S. history in Catoosa County Schools, said the transition was even slower on a local party level. Some candidates have just made the switch to Republican even though Southern rural areas moved in that direction years ago.

Several local candidates say they switched parties because their political beliefs are more aligned with the Republicans’ now.

Former Graham Mayor Lonnie Crosby withdrew his appeal of the City Council’s removal of him as Mayor, while District Attorney Jackie Johnson is investigating the town’s finances.

More than 80 members of Congress joined in calls to investigate fake 911 calls made claiming violent crimes at the homes of conservative bloggers designed to provoke a police response.

Ends & Pieces









If you missed my birthday a couple weeks ago, Apple has announced the perfect gift: the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display packs four times as many pixels into the same screen as the aging MacBook Pro on which I write the news summary every morning.

Quad-core Intel i7 processor and all-flash storage make it blazingly fast.

Alternatively, a ride in a Tesla Roadster would be a real treat. This one was snapped at the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Forum held in Buckhead yesterday. Though a promised Fisker Karma was absent, we understand they might not always make it to the car show on time.

The Georgia Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether law enforcement can be granted a search warrant for overhead thermal imaging. Add this to the possible use of drones in Georgia, and you can see the beginning of SkyNet.

Savannah Morning-News discusses the impact of the Port of Savannah on businesses upriver in Augusta.

For the first time, the annual study by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the Terry College of Business examined the impact of Georgia’s deepwater ports on each Georgia county for fiscal year 2011, said Robert Morris, senior director of external affairs for the Georgia Ports Authority.

“From the study, we were able to determine that the greater Augusta area — Richmond, Columbia and Washington counties — are some of our strongest counties for the export of products coming through our ports and reaching the international marketplace,” Morris said. “That’s a very positive sign because every export container comes with it a great number of jobs.”

Overall, the study found the number of port-related jobs in Georgia in fiscal year 2011 increased by 50,000, reaching a total of 350,000, compared to 300,000 in 2011, Morris said.

“Even in a time when Georgia’s overall economy shrunk and jobs were lost, in the port-related industry, 50,000 additional jobs were dependent upon our deepwater ports. That’s a big jump forward,” he said.

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