Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Election for April 4, 2013


Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Election for April 4, 2013

InsiderAdvantage Poll for Fox5Atlanta and Morris News

Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Partial poll results follow*

Now that the 2013 legislative session is over, over what is your opinion of the job performance of the Georgia General Assembly also known as the state legislature?

Approve: 13%
Somewhat Approve: 22%
Somewhat Disapprove: 21%
Disapprove: 21%
No Opinion: 23%

What is your opinion of the job performance of Governor Nathan Deal?

Approve: 23%
Somewhat Approve: 25%
Somewhat Disapprove: 18%
Disapprove: 19%
No Opinion: 15%

Specifically, based on what you know, what is your opinion of the ethics legislation passed recently by the General Assembly?

Approve: 15%
Disapprove: 20%
Don’t know enough about it to form an opinion: 48%
Undecided: 17%

* 573 Registered Georgia Voters | Conducted Monday Evening, April 1, 2013
Weighted for Age, Race, Gender, and Political Affiliation | Margin of Error +/- 4%


If the Republican primary where held today, who would you vote for?**

Paul Broun: 15%
Phil Gingrey 15%
Jack Kingston: 14%
Karen Handel: 9 %
David Perdue: 5%
Other: 5%
Undecided: 37%

**296 Registered Voters who said they would vote in the GOP Primary for U.S. Senate in 2014 | Weighted for Age, Race, and Gender | Margin of Error: 5.9%

And another take on it from Walter Jones:

The race to fill the U.S. Senate that Saxby Chabliss will vacate is evenly divided among Republicans, and voters of all stripes weren’t wowed by the recent legislative session, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The InsiderAdvantage/Morris News survey, done in conjunction with Atlanta television station FOX5, shows no leader yet among the candidates for the 2014 Republican Senate nomination. Chambliss, a Republican, has announced he won’t run for a third term.

GOP congressmen Paul Broun of Athens and Phil Gingrey of Marietta, who are the only announced candidates, are tied at 15 percent each while their colleague Jack Kingston of Savannah is just one percentage point behind, even though he hasn’t formally committed.

“It’s telling you who’s been in the news recently,” said Kennesaw State University Professor Kerwin Swint. “… There’s no frontrunner.”

Those surveyed weren’t impressed by the state legislative session that ended Thursday. Just 35 percent approved while 42 percent disapproved of the job done, and 23 percent had no opinion.

They have a better view of Gov. Nathan Deal’s job performance. Forty-eight percent approved of his performance, 37 percent disapproved and 15 percent had no opinion.

But Deal can be satisfied with his numbers two years ahead of his re-election. Swint said.

“There’s no major opponent on the horizon. There’s no major cloud,” Swint said. “Deal gets some credit for stepping into some of these legislative issues.”

Disclaimer: I edit, which is owned by InsiderAdvantage, but I did not participate in the conduct or analysis of this poll. Think of them as benevolent corporate overlords. That’s how I sleep at night.

Campaigns & Elections

Paul Bronson, a Democratic candidate for Mayor of Macon will run for District 2 on the Macon-Bibb consolidated commission in the July 16th Nonpartisan Special Election.

City of Brunswick voters will decide in November whether to allow package sales of alcohol on Sundays.

In November 2011, voters rejected Sunday alcohol sales by a 43-vote margin. Of the 1,646 votes cast, 51 percent voted against Sunday sales and 49 percent voted for them.

In November, voters in Centerville will vote on whether the retain the current 100% property tax exemption for seniors, or lower the exemption to a $50,000 homestead exemption for homeowners 70 or older.

If it passes, Centerville City Attorney Rebecca Tydings said the tax on a percentage of the value of seniors’ homes will go into effect January 1, 2014, but will not be charged until the end of 2014.

City officials brought the tax exemption into question in light of the economic squeeze the city is under and the fact that, according to Councilman Ed Tucker, the city currently loses about $200,000 a year in revenue because of the exemption.

Harley and council have kept at the forefront the argument that services in the growing community for seniors — especially police and fire protection — are unfairly being paid for by those under 70.

Overshadowed last month by the state legislature were the election of Scott Drake to the Decatur City Commission and Tommy Smith to Ward 1 on the Forest Park City Council. I don’t feel too bad for having missed that last one as the city’s website hasn’t caught up yet either.

More Legislative Review

Legislation to revamp MARTA adding privatization and a greater role for North Fulton mayors failed, taking with it an extension of the exemption from the 50/50 split requirement, which mandates that only 50% of sales tax revenue can be used for operations, the rest dedicated to capital projects. MARTA management says it will not affect fares this year.

When Governor Deal’s spokesman Brian Robinson says the ethics bill passed this year is viewed as “a good start,” I think we can expect a signing ceremony to be scheduled shortly. Additionally, early indications are that lobbyist spending slowed this session

Senate Bill 160 on Immigration Documentation for state benefits – the bill that also streamlines license renewals for holders who previously submitted immigration or citizenship documents may impose unintended barriers to legal immigrants and the Asian-American Legal Advocacy Center is asking Gov. Deal to veto the legislation.

Helen Kim Ho, executive director of the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, wants him to veto it.  She argues the definition of public benefits is so broad, and the list of acceptable I.D. papers so narrow, that this will hurt many foreigners who are here legally…but might not have exactly the right supporting documents.  She says a legal resident could also encounter officials who might not understand all the nuances of the legislation.

“What if this is construed in a way that makes it difficult for a parent to enroll their child in school?”  Ho asked.  “What if it would make it difficult for certain people to enter government buildings?  How would that be implemented by those standing at the door?”

D.A. King, president of an enforcement advocacy group, The Dustin Inman Society, dismissed Ho’s argument.

“The changes here reflect the same requirements…currently required in the Department of Driver Services,” King told WABE.  “All we have done is doing what the drivers’ license people have been doing for years.”

Consider that legislation also in light of the facts that Asian immigration now outpaces Hispanics, and 73% of Asian-Americans supported Obama in 2012.

In Georgia, 62% Asian-American support for Obama lagged the national figure, while Asian-American self-identification with the GOP dropped from 38% to 21%.

According to Census data, the Asian American population in Georgia increased 83% over the past decade.

Voter ID Requirement

Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, expressed skepticism about warnings that if North Carolina adopted a photo ID requirement, it would disenfranchise large numbers of voters.

Since Georgia adopted its requirement that voters show a photo ID at the polls in 2007, only 29,611 photo IDs had been issued by the state of Georgia to voters lacking them.

That contrasts with predictions that hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians would face problems at the polls, because they do not have a driver’s license.

“I believe in this day and time, the majority of people have a photo ID,” Kemp told the House Elections Committee.

Kemp was the star witness for the House Republicans as they prepare a voter ID bill that is almost certain to be passed. A voter ID bill passed the GOP-led legislature in 2011, but was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue. But Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has said he will sign such a bill.

The Georgia law has been closely watched by state GOP Republicans because it withstood constitutional challenges in the courts and because Georgia is a state very similar in size and demographic makeup to North Carolina.

North Carolina’s proposed voter photo ID law has come under particular criticism from civil rights groups, who argue it will have a disproportionate effect on African-Americans.

But Kemp said the African-American vote rose 42 percent in the 2008 presidential election over 2004, and rose 2.5 percent in 2012 over 2008.

Democratic Rep. Mickey Michaux of Durham, however, said the big rise in African-American voting was the result of President Barack Obama’s organization.

But under prodding from House Republicans, Kemp also noted that African-American voting rose 44 percent from the 2006 to the 2010 elections – non-presidential years in which races for governor and U.S. Senate were held.

Politifact Georgia found that complying with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act can be costly for states covered by the preclearance requirement.

Jurisdictions seeking a preclearance review have two options: a declaratory judgment process and an administrative review process.

States choosing the declaratory judgment process first, or after a voting change was denied in the administrative process, can accrue large legal bills. For example, South Carolina spent $3.5 million last year challenging a DOJ rejection of its proposed voter ID law. After taking the case to court, the three-judge declaratory judgment panel ruled in January in the state’s favor and precleared the law for 2013. The federal government was ordered to pay $54,000 of the state’s costs.

But several states covered in whole or part by Section 5 — California, Mississippi, New York, and North Carolina — support its constitutionality, and in a brief they filed in the Shelby case, they wrote that “its compliance burdens are minimal.”

But Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia who has studied the impact of the Voting Rights Act in Georgia, said the administrative review may be simple and inexpensive for trivial changes, such as moving a polling place from a fire station to a school. With more complex changes, such as redistricting plans, though, even the administrative review can be complicated and carry indirect costs, he said.

Georgia spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees for outside attorneys — not including work done by internal office staff — for a federal judicial review of the state’s redistricting plan in 2001. In March 2002, the state Legislature passed a midyear budget that included $1.8 million for legal fees to defend the plan.

Speaking of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act

Legislation to allow gated communities to serve as voting precincts was passed by the legislature and is on Governor Deal’s desk awaiting signature. House Bill 87 by Rep. Dusty Hightower also requires that the gates must be kept open during election day. Why would you do that? An election promise:

“This was a big issue for me because when I ran in the special election (to fill the District 68 House seat vacated by Tim Bearden), I gave my word to the people of Fairfield that I would help them save their voting precinct,” Rep. Dustin Hightower, R-Carrollton, said Monday. “This bill is a fulfillment of that promise to the community.”

Hightower said the law will help people in the entire state of Georgia by giving local election officials additional tools to establish precinct boundary lines.

“It doesn’t require that the polling place be inside a gated community, but if it’s located in a gated community, they have to leave the gates open for full access to anyone on election day,” he said.

“We’re all excited about this,” said District 2 County Commissioner Vicki Anderson, who lives in Fairfield and whose district includes the gated community. “It’s not just for Fairfield, but for every limited access community in Georgia. I believe we’re making it easier for voters to vote. I’m so appreciative of Dusty (Hightower) and Mike Dugan, who pushed it on the Senate side.”

I suspect that will require Justice Department preclearance under the Voting Rights Act as well as the Governor’s signature.

NRCC goes on the offensive, on the air

The National Republican Congressional Committee’s ad buy targeting Democrat John Barrow will play on local television.

The NRCC ads follow two templates: One attacks the target for “voting against balancing the budget” and backing first class air fare for members of Congress; the other script cites the lawmakers’ support for President Obama’s health care plan.

Here’s a wild guess: I think the anti-Barrow ad will attack on ObamaCare.

Economic Development

Senator Johnny Isakson has said that federal funding to move forward on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is “very close” and he will ask President Obama about the project at dinner next week.

Don’t be surprised if one thing Volkswagen executives considering a location in Atlanta ask about is the reliability of our electrical supply. Inexpensive and reliable electricity is one of the unsung economic engines that allows Georgia to attract jobs, especially in manufacturing.

Tell the Germans that Georgia is considering requiring a certain amount of solar power on the grid and their next question may be how to get to Tennessee to visit their plant there. That’s because the instability in the German power grid caused by increasing reliance on solar power has become a major stumbling block to industry.

The problem is that wind and solar farms just don’t deliver the same amount of continuous electricity compared with nuclear and gas-fired power plants. To match traditional energy sources, grid operators must be able to exactly predict how strong the wind will blow or the sun will shine.

But such an exact prediction is difficult. Even when grid operators are off by just a few percentage points, voltage in the grid slackens. That has no affect on normal household appliances, such as vacuum cleaners and coffee machines. But for high-performance computers, for example, outages lasting even just a millisecond can quickly trigger system failures.

File Under: Irony

Didn’t see that coming, did you? A psychic in Marietta won’t be able to open a business because of opposition from neighbors.

The Planning Commission voted 4-0 to recommend the zoning be changed to low rise office with a prohibition on a psychic reading practice.

The matter now heads to the April 16 meeting of the Board of Commissioners.

A green energy manufacturer fined for excessive pollution?

A factory that belongs to a Savannah-based company that produces what is supposed to be environmentally friendly fuel for electricity generation is emitting more air pollution than its state permit allows.

Tuesday, a senior executive said the situation would be remedied by the end of the year.

The company, Georgia Biomass LLC., paid a $100,000 fine last month for excess emissions of volatile organic compounds at its operation in Waycross, the world’s largest facility for turning pine timber into pellets that are exported to fuel European power plants.

“What happened was that once they started up the process, they found that the volatile organic compounds were higher than they expected. They came to us and told us about it,” said Karen Hayes, compliance manager with EPD’s Air Branch.

Georgia Republican Party Chairman’s Race

Candidates for Chairman will meet in Savannah on May 4, 2013 in a debate sponsored by the Georgia Republican Assembly and Chatham County Republican Party.

Lis Overton, newly elected chairman of the Chatham County Republican Party, said that organization will host the second debate along with the primary organizer, the Georgia Republican Assembly, on May 4 at the Coastal Georgia Center on Fahm Street.

“This is a real honor for our area and the CCRP, given that there will only be two debates among the candidates for this very important post,” Overton said. “This will draw Republicans and media from all over the state to Savannah.”

I will be moderating several debate and invite you to submit questions for the candidates. I’ll choose from the submissions only questions that can be addressed to all the candidates. Unless you come up with a real juicy one.

B.J. VanGundy received an endorsement from former GAGOP and Fulton County GOP Chair Bob Shaw.

It is time for a new generation of leaders to advance the conservative message in Georgia. It will take hard work, bold ideas, and an energetic Chairman to continue to lead us to victory. When we meet in Athens May 17-18, I ask that you join me in electing someone for Chairman who represents the future of our party, B.J. Van Gundy.


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