Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for April 3, 2013

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for April 3, 2013

Governor Deal Reviewing 2013 Legislation Bill Signing PensGovernor Deal continues to review 2013 legislation to decide whether he will sign or veto it. How is the decion made? Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Jeanne Bonner asked and learned this:

Deal probably won’t veto many partly because the GOP holds all statewide offices. But it’s also because he’s told lawmakers what bills he will sign, says spokesman Brian Robinson.

“Because of the work the Governor does on the front end with House and Senate leadership but also rank and file members in both chambers, we try to let them know what he will and won’t sign,” he said. “So that the preference is that a bill he won’t sign never gets to his desk.”

“First there’s a policy review to make sure this is in line with what the Governor thinks this is the best direction for the state to take, that is measures up well with his conservative governing philosophy,” he said. “And then second, there’s a technical review where our executive counsel goes through these bills and makes sure there’s no conflict with other Georgia laws.”

Once the decision is made to sign a bill into law, there may be a signing ceremony in the Governor’s office to which legislators who worked on the bill and some citizens are invited. With high-profile bills, Governor Deal may do a public signing before a group that was particularly interested in the bill, such as when he signed the Medicare Fee bill before the Georgia Hospital Association earlier this year.

Finally, he may make a road show out of signing and either do it outside Metro Atlanta, or even in multiple locations in different media markets across the state. The Ethics/Lobbyist regulation bill passed this year might be a good candidate for a road show.

Giving the pen used to sign legislation into law has become a tradition and they’re in great demand among people who invested their time and effort to pass something they believe is important. So modern executives have taken to using multiple pens to sign ceremonial legislation. In signing the ObamaCare legislation, the President used 22 pens.

The pen used to sign historic legislation itself becomes a historical artifact. The more pens a President uses, the more thank-you gifts he can offer to those who helped create that piece of history. The White House often engraves the pens, which are then given as keepsakes to key proponents or supporters of the newly signed legislation.

When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, he reportedly used more than 75 pens (video footage can be found here, although camera cutaways make it hard to keep track) and gave one of the first ones to Martin Luther King Jr. Senators Hubert Humphrey and Everett McKinley Dirksen also received pens for their aid in shuttling the bill through Congress.

And in 1996, President Clinton gave the four pens he used to sign the Line-Item Veto bill — which allowed Presidents to veto individual sections of legislation rather than the entire thing — to those most likely to appreciate the bill’s impact: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

To keep up with legislation signed by Gov. Deal, you can check the updated list on his website.

Senate 2014

Jim Galloway’s Political Insider brings us news that David Perdue resigned from the Georgia Ports Authority, one of the most-highly sought appointments in state government, and is thought to be preparing for a Senate bid next year.

A David Perdue campaign might make things awkward for former Governor Sonny Perdue, who is considered to be close to Karen Handel, who is also considering a run. Even if the former Governor does not endorse any candidate in next year’s Senate race, Handel would likely be able to draw support from much of the Perdue former-campaign organization due to substantial overlap between those activists and professionals and the 2010 Handel gubernatorial campaign.

The Senate campaign may also put some physician and healthcare groups in awkward positions as the candidate pool currently features two doctors, and may include at least one more.

“I can’t imagine that many times in our history we might have had three different physicians all running for the same position,” Charles Bullock, PhD, political science professor at the University of Georgia in Athens, told MedPage Today.

The state’s physician group, the Medical Association of Georgia (MAG), in Atlanta, isn’t tipping its hand on whom it may endorse if this turns into a three-doctor race. In fact, the association’s executive director, Donald Palmisano Jr., said the group would wait until every candidate is in a race before deciding, and may not make a decision even then.

“It’s not a foregone conclusion that MAG would endorse a candidate in every race,” Palmisano told MedPage Today in an email. The group’s physician leaders would make the decision.

Insiders in the state’s medical community have said quietly that they would like to see Price enter the race. Price, an orthopedic surgeon, is viewed as more in touch with the doctor community than Broun or Gingrey.

Price has kept an active role in organized medicine even after entering public office. He remains a delegate to the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates and regularly attends meetings — a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the state’s medical community.

All three congressmen are members of the GOP Doctors Caucus, which Gingrey co-chairs with Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe, MD.

“Exit, stage right,” for Newton County Commissioner John Douglas, who announced the end of his Congressional aspirations campaign for the 10th district seat being vacated by Rep. Paul Broun.

Yesterday, being like any other recent day, saw yet another campaign announcement from the Bob Barr campaign for the 11th Congressional district. Former Republican State Representative Tom Wilder will Chair the campaign.

Ethics

Common Cause is declaring victory in the battle for greater restrictions on lobbying, but will not stop with this year’s bill limiting gifts to legislators.

“Although not perfect this measure does for the first time put some limitations on spending by registered lobbyists on public officials.”

According to Perry, one of the most glaring loopholes is that once a year lobbyists can spend unlimited amounts on food and drink on legislative committees and local delegations.

“In a lot of cases around the state a local delegation is only two people so as long you invite two people you can spend unlimited wining, dining.”

Perry says despite the loopholes, the bill improves the status quo. More important, he says there’s been a culture shift at the Capitol.

“We got a little change to the law but we didn’t get the big step that we want. But we changed behavior so we at least take a step in the right direction. It has become frowned upon to accept lobbyist gifts.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also notes a change made to the bill late in the session:

One of the most talked-about is whether the bill allows at least some state employees and lawyers to avoid having to register as lobbyists and disclose what they spend on lawmakers.

That’s no small matter at the statehouse. More than 200 state employees lobby each session and lobbyists for the University System are among the biggest spenders at the Capitol. And some of the most prominent private-industry lobbyists, such as Pete Robinson of Troutman Sanders Strategies, Robert Highsmith of Holland & Knight and Skin Edge and Boyd Pettit of GeorgiaLink, are also lawyers.

House Bill 142 says an attorney representing a client does not have to register as a lobbyist if the attorney “is not compensated for the specific purpose of lobbying.” But some ethics experts and lobbyists say that could be interpreted to allow some lobbyist/lawyers to avoid registering and disclosing what they spend if they argue that they are “advising” a special interest, rather than lobbying on their behalf.

“It sure sounds like if you are a lawyer down there on behalf of a client, you don’t have to register,” said Rick Thompson, an ethics and campaign finance compliance expert and former executive secretary of the state ethics commission.

Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, acknowledged that there is a fine line in how the new rules could be interpreted. In essence, he said, lawyers who also lobby would be on the honor system.

Highsmith, a lawyer, chuckled and took off his lobbyist badge after reading the language in the bill before it passed Thursday night. But he suspects the language excluding lawyers from registering may only affect lawyers who work in offices and write bills or advise clients but never come down to the Capitol. Those lawyers already don’t necessarily register. Or it could help lawyers who come to the Capitol for a day to testify on a specific bill.

“I am not turning in my badge,” Highsmith said. “The Pete Robinson, Robert Highsmith, Skin Edge …. it would shock me if the crowd that is down there a lot would fail to register.”

Shortly after being arrested in Glynn County for obstruction of justice in relation to the baby shooting defendant’s family, Brunswick City Commissioner James Henry Brooks, Sr. reported to Camden County and was jailed there after being indicted for alleged racketeering and official corruption.

Brooks surrendered about 9:45 a.m., just over two hours before the noon deadline set Friday as a condition of his release on Glynn County charges of obstructing an officer and tampering with a witness.

He was arrested Thursday on those charges and spent the night in jail.

The Camden County charges against Brooks go back more than a year. He was arrested and jailed in early 2012 on charges of bribery, violating his oath of office and using his position as a city commission to influence police hires and the issuance of city liquor licenses and permits.

The bribery charge was dismissed for lack of probable cause at a February 2012 hearing but the other charges were still pending when a grand jury returned an indictment that included the more serious racketeering charges Thursday.

Now that Brooks has been formally indicted, Gov. Nathan Deal will appoint a panel to explore the charges against Brooks. Deal will then receive the panel’s report and decide whether to remove Brooks from office.

Meanwhile, a federal court trial on bribery charges continues for Grovetown, Ga City Councilman Leland “Sonny” McDowell, who serves as Mayor Pro Tem.

McDowell, who pleaded not guilty to the charges June 15, is accused of offering a kickback to a former Alabama Department of Public Safety employee in 2007. He and James E. Potts, of Montgomery, Ala., face a four-count indictment alleging bribery related to a program receiving federal funds.

McDowell owned Southern Detention Technologies, which sold fingerprint machines. He is now the owner of Grayco Detention Equipment.

McDowell said he sold the department a machine to be used for fingerprint-based background checks on people who were going to work with children, the elderly and otherwise vulnerable people.

The federal grand jury’s June indictment accused him of offering, and Potts of accepting, a $1,700 check and $1 for every fingerprint scan related to the DHR, according to the statement.

If convicted, McDowell faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

McDowell was elected to Grovetown City Council in 2009, and his term runs through the end of this year. If he is convicted or pleads guilty, he’ll be removed from the council, Mayor George James has said.

City council members re-elected McDowell in January as the city’s mayor pro tempore.

Solar Sham Legislation

Grover Norquist writes in Politico.com that renewable energy mandates end up costing ratepayers more money and are thus a “hidden tax”.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia already have a renewable energy mandate on the books. These mandates inject government into the business decisions of utility companies, requiring them to procure energy from more costly and less reliable sources than they otherwise would.

The increased energy costs produced by renewable mandates are passed along to consumers in the form of higher utility bills. According to the Institute for Energy Research, utility bills in states with a renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) are 40 percent higher on average than in states without one.

By driving up utility bills, state renewable energy mandates act as a hidden tax.

House Bill 657 co-sponsored by Republican State Representative Buzz Brockway would enact a state renewable energy mandate, exactly what Norquist describes above as a hidden tax.

While Rep. Buzz Brockway writes, “[t]here are no mandates for solar deployment,” that’s clearly not the case if you actually take the time to read the bill.

In the initial draft of the bill, we find the following:

46-3-63

No later than 15 days after the effective date of this Act, the [Public Service] commission shall initiate a rulemaking proceeding to establish a state-wide rural community solar initiative, the purposes of which shall be to:

(2) Determine the processes that will be used to set long-term targets for total solar electric generating capacity and electricity generated by residents and ratepayers in this state, including minimum amounts of electric energy that an electric utility must purchase from the community solar provider;

[lines 85-87 and 94-97]

So, the first draft of the bill does indeed include a mandate that the Georgia Public Service Commission set a minimum amount of solar energy to be bought by the current electric utility. That is a renewable energy mandate whether you want to admit it or not.

Porsche Cars North America

Porsche Avenue Hapeville

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Volkswagen AG is considering opening an operations center at the old Ford Plant in Hapeville, where Porsche Cars North America is building a new headquarters. The statement in that article that’s painful to me?

Volkswagen’s sports car unit, Porsche

Porsche Avenue Hapeville Ga 2The City of Hapeville should sell souvenir versions of that sign above in order to pay for the constant replacements that will be necessary as the signs are stolen.

Meanwhile, Atlanta-based Porsche Cars North America reported record sales in March 2013, an increase of 41% over March 2012 and part of the company’s best first quarter sales ever.

The 911 line enjoyed a successful sales month, with an increase of 112 percent to 990 units, up from 465 in March 2012.  Demand for the Cayenne SUV also remains strong, with the diesel and GTS models accounting for 45 percent of the 1,508 Cayenne units sold.

“In March, our 2-door sports cars accounted for 45 percent of our total sales – a number that we expect to remain this strong with the arrival of the all-new Cayman later this month,” said Detlev von Platen, President and CEO, Porsche Cars North America, Inc. “And the tremendous media coverage of the 911 GT3 debut at the Geneva and New York Auto Show bodes well for a successful cadence of product launches this year.”

The Dunwoody Crier, whose offices are close to the current PCNA headquarters in Sandy Springs, has a review of the 2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel. Here’s a desperate plea pro-tip for Dick Williams, Editor of the Crier. You should really have someone who can deliver pictures like the one below from the Georgia Tech Car Show this past weekend do your Porsche reviews, so you have photos to run too.

Porsche at Georgia Tech Car ShowAlso, this is what an actual Porsche “Sport Utility Vehicle” looks like:

Real Porsche Sport Utility Vehicle

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