Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 18, 2014


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for December 18, 2014

The British ship Mayflower landed at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts on December 18, 1620.


Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley who founded Methodism, and one of the great hymn-writers, was born on December 18, 1707. Wesley accompanied James Oglethorpe to Georgia in 1736.

The first national day of thanksgiving was observed on December 18, 1777 commemorating the American victory over the British at Saratoga the previous month.

Congress wrote, “It is therefore recommended to the Legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES, to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for solemn THANKSGIVING and PRAISE; That at one Time and with one Voice the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor”.

On December 18, 1834, Governor William Lumpkin signed legislation chartering the Georgia Methodists Conference Manual Labor School at Oxford, Georgia, which would later become Emory College in 1836 and Emory University in 1915.

On December 18, 1865, U.S. Secretary of State William Seward issued a statement verifying the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed slavery in the United States.

The office of Superintendent of Public Education and Georgia Schools was created on December 18, 1866 when Gov. Charles Jenkins signed legislation passed by the General Assembly; on December 18, 1894, Gov. William Atkinson approved a resolution for a Constitutional Amendment to make the State School Commissioner elected statewide.

Georgia Politics

Governor Nathan Deal has appointed Dean C. Bucci to Paulding County Superior Court.

Congressman Phil Gingrey, who is being retired after an unsuccessful run for the United States Senate, is donating his official papers to Kennesaw State University.

Gingrey served as Georgia’s state senator from 1999 to 2003 and was a three-time chairman of the Marietta School Board prior to becoming senator. He was elected representative of Georgia’s 11th District in 2002 and continues to serve in that position since he took office in 2003.

Gingrey’s donated records include thousands of documents covering his positions on various national issues and will be open to public research in KSU’s Department of Museums, Archives and Rare Books.

“Kennesaw State is honored to be the recipient of Rep. Gingrey’s official papers, and we take great pride in knowing that we have been entrusted with this important part of our state’s and the nation’s historical record,” [University President Daniel] Papp said in a press release.

Clarke County School Superintendent Philip Lanoue is in the running for National Superintendent of the Year after winning Georgia Superintendent of the Year.

Under Lanoue’s leadership, the Clarke County School District has been honored as a Title I Distinguished District for being the best large district in the state at closing the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students. All middle schools, as well as Cedar Shoals and Clarke Central high schools, are now International Baccalaureate Authorized World Schools.

During his tenure as superintendent, Lanoue has strived to create innovative partnerships, including the revitalization of the Athens Community Career Academy, a partnership with Athens Technical College. He also worked closely with the University of Georgia College of Education in forming one of the nation’s only Professional Development School Districts.

At the forefront of introducing new technologies to improve student performance, Lanoue recently was tapped by President Barack Obama to attend a digital learning forum at the White House for superintendents to discuss educational technology.

He has been named as one of the Top 50 Technological Innovators in Education by the Center for Digital Education.

State Rep. Dewey McClain (D-Lawrenceville) dubbed himself and Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) “redshirt freshmen” after both men were elected in special elections and served in the 2014 Session of the General Assembly before being elected this year to full terms. Given Rep. McClain’s former career as a professional football player with the Atlanta Falcons, we assume he meant “redshirt” in the college football sense, and not in the Star Trek sense.

Also publicly donning a red shirt is newly elected State Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park), who spoke to Valdosta Today about his plans, which include no mention of teleportation.

“I have served on a local school board for the past 12 years; along with two of my brothers, we run a small business; and I was born and raised on a farm, so I am passionate about these three areas,” Corbett said.

He would like to replicate the ideas and plans that Paul Ryan brought to the U.S. congress.

“He sat down with legislators that were effective, that was able to get bills passed and asked them, ‘What do you know now that you wished you would have known when you started?’” Corbett said.

“The people of Valdosta can expect to see me doing what it takes to become an effective legislator. Having been raised on a farm, I learned the value of a good work ethic. I have carried that work ethic with me throughout my life. The people of Valdosta can expect to see me working hard for them in the months ahead,” Corbett said.

A State House For Hire Transportation Service Committee met to discuss innovative transportation services Uber and Lyft, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

State lawmakers this week heard two days of testimony on the rise of ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft, with the upstart companies alternately praised as groundbreaking and vilified as interlopers who don’t think the rules apply to them.

The challenge now for legislators, especially those in the Republican majority who will largely decide what happens, is ensuring public safety and a level-playing field while honoring the popularity of these companies with younger voters and not angering conservative voters who despise new government regulations.

In the end, the panel was left with several issues that will likely be addressed in the legislative session that begins Jan. 12: whether the background checks for drivers go far enough, whether the drivers carry the proper insurance, and whether the drivers and companies are paying taxes.

The companies themselves, while calling their background checks more than adequate and their insurance top-notch, say they don’t oppose regulation, as long as it allows them to maintain their uniqueness. They also say they are working with the Department of Revenue to satisfy their tax obligations.

Taxi cab and limousine companies testified Wednesday that Uber and Lyft are being allowed to skip the rules they have had to meet for years, all while not paying taxes and endangering public safety.

“Uber and Lyft insult my intelligence, and I hope they insult yours,” Les Schneider, an attorney and lobbyist for the Georgia Limousine Association, told the committee. “The system shouldn’t be gamed so the truth gets stifled and silenced.”

Schneider was particularly irate that Uber and Lyft drivers are not required to be fingerprinted and pass a state criminal background check.

One point I would add from a conservative (free market-oriented) perspective: conservatives don’t just despise new government regulations, many of us think we have too many already. Also, you’re insulting everyone’s intelligence if you think the current regime of taxi and limo regulation benefits consumers or anyone other than current taxi and limo company owners.

Is anyone suprised to learn that Fulton County mismanaged IT contracts?

Fulton County’s information technology department mismanaged millions of dollars worth of contracts and violated numerous county rules over the course of nearly four years, according to an internal audit released Wednesday.

The department improperly paid a vendor $14.6 million before it had done required work and paid excessive salaries to some contract employees, the audit found. One county employee supervises a contractor who is his former business partner. Another county employee retired, then went to work for a contractor who does business with the county, in violation of Fulton’s ethics policies. The department also violated purchasing rules and lacked procedures to properly monitor the contracts, the audit found.

Governor Nathan Deal honored three law enforcement officers in middle Georgia.

Corporal Josh Swain and Ranger First Class Ronnie Beard of Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Georgia Parole Officer and Fugitive Task Force Investigator Trent Swicord received Public Safety Awards from the governor Wednesday at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth.

Two nights before Christmas last year, Swain and Beard risked their lives in rising flood waters to rescue four stranded boaters on the Ocmulgee River.

Swicord was recognized for stopping fleeing suspects who hit him and another officer with their vehicle as they tried to escape in May of 2013.

Someone under the Gold Dome ought to go ask the Houston County Commission how they had leftover funds from a 2001 SPLOST, which they will now spend on paving.

Tuesday night the board approved a new road paving project using 2001 SPLOST funds left over from savings on other projects. The board agreed to pave about 1.1 miles of Terrell Road from Elko Road to Sewell Road.

Commissioner Larry Thomson, who made the motion for the project’s approval, credited the frugality of the Public Works Department as the reason there is still money remaining for the project.

“By working hard and saving every dime, we can pave another dirt road, and I really appreciate that,” Thomson said.

Muscogee County School Superintendent David Lewis proposed how to spend $192 million from an anticipated SPLOST renewal.

The current SPLOST, which Muscogee County voters approved in 2009, expires at the end of this year. Lewis plans to ask the board at its regular meeting in January to authorize a March 17 referendum to renew the 1 percent sales tax.

The 2009 referendum allowed the school district to collect as much as $223,155,784 for capital projects. But due to the sluggish recovery from the Great Recession, the administration estimated in October that total revenue from this SPLOST will be about $30.4 million short. As a result, the board deferred three projects: the new gym at Fort Middle School for district-wide use, other new athletic facilities, and furniture and equipment. Those projects are on the preliminary list for the proposed renewal of the SPLOST.

The list won’t be finalized until after the board authorizes the referendum and 10 public forums are conducted, Lewis said, one in each of the district’s nine zones, plus a centralized one.

The items on the superintendent’s list range from $56 million for replacing Spencer High School to $250,000 for upgrading playgrounds. And in between, various other areas throughout the district are addressed.

“Let’s make sure we provide for the needs of our students – and all students – autistic students, gifted students, regular students, artistic students, athletic students,” Lewis said. “They all need to come to school.”

A split Woodstock City Council failed to reach the unanimity required to ask their local legislative delegation to give the Woodstock Municipal Court jurisdiction over a section of I-575.

“Quite frankly, it doesn’t make sense to me to show up on Delegation Day (Dec. 10) knowing that we don’t have a resolution to present our case when not all of council is behind it,” Henriques said prior to the vote. “If you don’t want to unanimously do it, my recommendation would be not to go forward to the delegation. It is that simple. I think it is a waste of time.”

The portion of I-575 over which the city was seeking Municipal Court jurisdiction extends from the Cherokee County/Cobb County line to the northern most city limits of Woodstock near the bridge over Little River. The Georgia General Assembly approved annexing this stretch of highway into the city in April 2011, with the added stipulation that the State and Superior Courts of Cherokee County, which are located in Canton, be given court jurisdiction over the property.

This restriction, city officials said, consumes taxpayer dollars that cannot be recouped, as Woodstock Police officers must travel to Canton to adjudicate citations written on the interstate.

Police Chief Calvin Moss said the Woodstock Police Department, which is a state-accredited agency, has responded to 2,438 incidents or activities on the interstate so far this year. Officers investigated 214 traffic accidents and issued 248 traffic citations, which, in keeping with the current practice, were transferred to the State Court in Canton.

The Georgia Public Service Commission approved ten Power Purchase Agreements proposed by Georgia Power, including two new solar installations in Decatur County.

Albany City Commission is moving forward with a plan to buy out long-time employees with an early retirement package to reduce the number of public workers.

Kenny Echols is dropping out of the Special Election for Richmond County Commission District 7.

His announcement leaves at least three serious candidates – Hap Harris, Sonny Pittman and Sean Frantom – in the running to complete the remaining 21 months of Smith’s term.

Harris, whom the commission named in September at the request of Super District 10 Commissioner Grady Smith to represent the district until the special election, said he was learning about the amount of time serving as a part-time commissioner actually requires.

The County and Municipal Probation Advisory Council will hear allegations of wrongdoing by a private probation service, South Georgia Probation Inc..

The allegations stem from an October inspection by the council staff that turned up multiple problems. They include making false statements, issues with management and failure to register all employees, conduct criminal background screenings and ensure their qualifications.

The staff also found problems with what it called “front loading fees,” taking fees instead of ensuring the offender conducted court-ordered community service and collecting fees for drug tests that were never performed.

Two-dollar gas was a reality in Ringgold, Georgia, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

Camp Frank D. Merrill near Dahlonega will come under Army control after President Obama’s signature of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.

Congress, as part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act passed last week, voted to transfer 282 acres where the Army Ranger camp sits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the Department of Defense.

The land is administered as part of the Gainesville-based Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest but permitted to the Secretary of the Army.

The move would be completed no later than Sept. 30, according to the act.

“I’m glad to be getting this win under the belt,” said U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, of the move, which he has pushed since shortly after taking office in 2013.

Collins said the land transfer gives the Army the opportunity to make improvements “without the bureaucratic regulation” of two federal departments.

“This is just an example where — nothing personal with the Forest Service — but their lease and control over an Army facility like that was raising safety and cost concerns,” Collins said. “And there was no need to have it under the lease agreement like it was when the Army has done such a great job of maintaining and restoring the property.”

Sally Bethea, long the face of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, is retiring from full-time work with the group.

Jason Ulseth, technical programs director, becomes riverkeeper, and Juliet Cohen, who had served as general counsel, will serve as executive director.

In a small organization, she served as both riverkeeper, the person overseeing program development and the organization’s chief spokesman, and executive director, or chief manager and fundraiser.

Over the years, the group grew from its Atlanta main office to satellite offices in Gainesville and LaGrange. The staff also grew, as did the annual budget, rising to $1.5 million.

“We have worked to ensure clean water laws are enforced and, when necessary, go to court,” Bethea said during an interview last week


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