Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for December 17, 2012


Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for December 17, 2012

These sweet little eight-week old pups are on the euthanasia list for Friday morning before dawn unless someone steps up to foster or rescue them. They are available for adoption from the Murray County Animal Shelter in Chatsworth, Georgia.

This eleven-month old, tail-wagging, people- and dog-loving lab mix is also on the list for Friday. He is also available for adoption from the Murray County Animal Shelter in Chatsworth, Georgia.

Contact Lisa Hester at 770-441-0329 or via email at for more information on how you can save these dogs for Christmas.

Dixie Dog Rescue, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for helping save Dolly, the hound dog, recently pulled this little guy, named Chester, who turned out to need expensive veterinary care for bite wounds. Please join me in making a Christmas donation today to Dixie Dog Rescue to help them continue saving lives this holiday season. If you make a donation, please let them know sent you.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Happy birthday to the City of Brookhaven, which came into existence just past midnight. Congratulations to District 1 City Council Member Rebecca Chase Williams, who was elected Mayor Pro Tem.

At noon today, Georgia’s Presidential Electors will meet in the Senate chamber in the State Capitol to cast their ballots for President and Vice President.

And then there were four: Bill Fincher has become the second candidate to drop out of the Special Election for House District 21.

Fincher, who is an assistant district attorney in Gilmer County, said running for office was not a good financial move for his family.

“I would have to resign from my job immediately to run, then I’d be out looking for a job. And it’s expensive to run for public office,” he said. Fincher added that he was gratified by the reception he received from the community as a candidate.

Early voting starts today in Cherokee County for voters in the January 8, 2013 Special Elections for House District 21 and Senate District 21.

Early voting to fill the state House District 21 and Senate District 21 seats will be held at the Stone Elections Building in downtown Canton.

Voting will be held each day through Friday between 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

It will resume Dec. 27-28, on Dec. 31 and Jan. 2-4, 2013, during those same hours. No early voting on Saturdays will be scheduled.

The office will be closed Dec. 24-26 and on Jan. 1 for the holidays.

In Senate District 11, where a Special Election will be held January 8, 2013, the Post-Searchlight has more information about Bainbridge physician Dean Burke, who is running to succeed Senator John Bulloch.

Robert Stokely, recently elected to the Georgia State House of Representatives in District 71will not take office, instead being appointed Coweta County Magistrate Judge. District 71 includes parts of Coweta and Fayette counties.

David Stover will run in the Special Election to fill Stokely’s seat. No date has been set for the election, but Governor Deal has ten days from the vacancy to call an election, which will be held between 30 and 60 days later. At this point, I think we’re looking at January 29th as the likely date.

Our friends at R. Thompson & Associates, LLC, send a timely reminder that candidates in Special Elections are required to file a Personal Financial Disclosure form.

They also not that between today and January 9, 2013, online renewal for lobbyist registration is open. Check out their website for an important notice to lobbyists renewing their registration.

The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission has released a Notice of Formal Proceedings, signalling that it will seek to take disciplinary action against Judge William S. Bass of the Grady County State Court.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

Grady County State Court Judge J. William Bass Sr. is accused of being vindictive against people he believed had supported his political opponent; of asking for a pay raise for his part-time work based on the amount of money he collected in fines; and of exceeding his authority in setting fines to “maximize” revenue collection for the county.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission gave Bass notice Friday of formal proceedings on 11 counts of alleged misconduct.

Bass declined to comment, saying his attorney would speak for him. His attorney could not be reached late Friday afternoon.

The case of the late Glynn County Commissioner Tom Sublett gets sadder and weirder.

The Glynn County Police Department is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed Glynn County Commissioner Tom Sublett.

Sublett’s body was found floating in the Frederica River Tuesday morning. He had been shot in the head but had died from drowning.

Investigators said his hands were bound in front of him.

The medical examiner still has not determined whether Sublett’s death was a homicide.

Redistricting is still an issue as an appeal in a federal lawsuit seeks to overturn Fayette County Commission elections because the General Assembly failed to pass new maps for the districts.

The new map was adopted in February by the county commission for the purpose of creating districts that were balanced by population. The previous three-district map, which dates back at least several decades, hadn’t been updated since the county’s population boom began in the 1980s, and as a result the three districts had become significantly out of whack.

The new map hit a snag at the state capitol when the legislature failed to consider it prior to the end of the session, a matter that Fayette Rep. Virgil Fludd blamed on missed deadlines due to public advertising requirements.

The issue was revived by a federal court lawsuit filed by Peachtree City attorney Rick Lindsey which resulted in the court ordering the application of the new balanced five-district map. That same map received pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice and was used in the July primary and November general elections.

In the district voting lawsuit, the NAACP is joined by several local residents as defendants, in asking the federal court to impose district voting in Fayette County to make it easier for black residents to elect “the candidate of their choice” to the county commission and also the Fayette County Board of Education.

The catch is that district voting would limit residents to voting for just one of the five representatives on each board, depending on their geographic location. Under Fayette’s current at-large voting system, all county residents get to vote for all five members of both boards.

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) says that a comprehensive boating safety bill may be introduced in the 2013 Session of the Georgia General Assembly, and that licensing is being considered.

District 98 Rep. Josh Clark, District 104 Rep. Valerie Clark, District 103 Representative-elect Timothy Barr and Ga. Sen. Butch Miller and Unterman listened and fielded questions.

“We have people on Lake Lanier who have no clue what they’re doing,” lake resident Mel White said. “They have no idea of the rules of the road. And I wonder if there’s not some way that we can require licensing for boating operators, just like we require for people to drive an automobile.”

“We probably cannot legislate away stupidity,” Buford resident Phyllis White said, “but I don’t think the education can ever be voluntary. I don’t think you’ll get enough people to do it if we keep trying to do it voluntary.”

Unterman, who founded the caucus, said after Saturday’s meeting that she expected a bill to be pitched during the General Assembly’s new session that would cover three bases:

• Mandate boater education, with possible licensing

• Lower the boating under the influence threshold to 0.08, to match roadway DUI standards

• Make life preserver use mandatory for those under 13 years old

She said she would like to see more regulated boater education become a reality.

“I think a license will be tied into the boater education,” Unterman said. “It’ll be like the hunter safety course. You have to take that before you can go hunting, and you have to prove that you’ve taken it.”

Disabled veterans in Columbia County will receive a little something extra in their stockings this year, as the county is mailing refunds for overpayment of property taxes.

“I am in the process of signing disabled veterans’ checks,” said Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen. “They are going in the mail Monday.”

That’s the first batch. About another 75 still need more research, or her office can’t find the veteran listed, she said.

The refunds, averaging around $1,100, are due to 100 percent, service-connected disabled veterans who applied for, and were approved for, a higher homestead exemption. The federal government raised the amount veterans were to receive starting in 2007, but the information never made it to local officials.

As a result, county tax offices around Georgia have been scrambling to identify the veterans entitled to receive the refunds, and to calculate how much they were owed, and for which years, since the changes took effect. County officials had hoped symbolically to send out the checks before Veterans Day, but were slowed by the details of calculating the individual refunds.

“The whole process has been very complicated,” Allen said, and resulted in more than 40 hours of overtime from her staff just to get the first batch of checks ready.

DeKalb County residents are likely to see property tax increases under a budget submitted by CEO Burrell Ellis that also adds additional police officers.

The more than $562 million dollar budget proposed for 2013 by DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis includes a 1.69 increase to the county’s millage rate.

County officials say that’s nearly $49 more a year for owners of a $200,000 dollar home in unincorporated DeKalb County. But Ellis says even with an increase most county homeowners will pay less in taxes than they did in 2008.

Ellis says proposed the increase is needed to help offset lost revenue from five years of declines in the county’s property tax digest and the incorporation of the city of Brookhaven.

“The creation of Brookhaven this is going to cost the county approximately $20 to $23 million dollars in lost revenue this year.”

the call for a referendum is included in the progress report on the county’s capital improvement program.

The section on capital improvements notes that the county has spent or obligated all of the 2006 bond projects – which targeted the areas of transportation, libraries and parks.

The last bit of money available from the transportation segment is being spent to upgrade the intersection of North Druid Hills and Briarcliff roads. Both roads are thoroughfares and the traffic congestion is common.

Ellis’ proposal goes on to say that the list of deferred transportation upgrades continues to grow.

To relieve the delays, Ellis proposes to allocate $5 million from the HOST program, including $3.5 million to match state funds from the Georgia Department of Transporation and $1.5 million to match other state and federal funds that are containted in the region’s Transportation Improvement Program.

HOST stands for Homestead Option Sales Tax. DeKalb was the first county in Georgia to implement HOST in order to shift the cost of providing some governmental services from property tax to sales tax revenues.

However, the HOST program doesn’t have enough money to leverage all available matching funds. For that reason, Ellis wrote, the county will seek authorization from the Legislature to put a local option transportation sales referendum on a future ballot.

Ellis told commissioners that his budget proposal is “lean, responsible and responsive to our priority concerns.”

He probably said that last part with a straight face, which is more than I could manage without hours of practice in front of a mirror.

Georgia reports that it is on-track in rolling out the national ID card required by federal law.

States have until Jan. 15 to fulfill requirements for issuing a national ID. Requirements for individuals to actually carry the IDs don’t start phasing in until December 2014.

Susan Sport of the Department of Driver Services said the state is in compliance with the law, according to a story published Sunday in The Rome New-Tribune.

“And as long as the state is in compliance, our citizens’ licenses are still good on Jan. 15,” she said.

The Real ID Act was passed in 2005. Only people with verified identification will be able to fly, enter federal buildings or otherwise conduct business with the government.

Condolences Congratulations to Joseph Brannan, the new Chairman for the 2d District Georgia Republican Party.

 “The 2nd District has a number of challenges, primarily being that it’s the largest District by number of Counties, almost half of which are unorganized. We have a great group of Statehouse members in our district, however, the latest round of redistricting has made the 2nd less than competitive for a Republican. But we look forward to organizing this convention cycle and carrying the Republican message to all corners of Southwest Georgia.”

Brannan also serves as Secretary for the Muscogee County Party and is the current President of Republican Leadership for Georgia.

The Decatur County Commission will have a new Chairman and Vice Chairman for 2013.

District 5 Commissioner Russell Smith will serve as the chairman of the Decatur County Board of Commissioners in 2013, and District 4 Commissioner Frank Loeffler will serve as the vice chairman.

During Tuesday’s regular board meeting, the agenda called for a vote between Loeffler and District 6 Commissioner Oliver Sellers, the two eligible candidates for the vice chairman position. However, Sellers removed his name from consideration, effectively making Loeffler the vice chairman.

The Board of Commissioners’ leadership roles are rotated each January, with the previous year’s vice chairman becoming the new chairman. The commissioner who has served the longest, without ever previously serving as chairman, then becomes the next vice chairman. Smith was the board’s vice chairman in 2012.

Smith, who faced challengers in both the primary and general elections in 2012, will serve as the chairman of a board that will have at least two new members in 2013.

The Georgia Ports Authority is going green, rolling out electric rubber-tired gantry cranes, which move intermodal containers within the port.

Georgia Ports Executive Director Curtis Foltz said the transition to the electrified rubber-tired cranes is an important milestone for the port and the industry.

“This project is the latest in a series of GPA initiatives designed to increase the productivity and capacity of the port in environmentally responsible ways,” Foltz said.

Through efforts such as electrifying ship-to-shore cranes and refrigerated container racks, the Port of Savannah avoids the use of more than 5.4 million gallons of diesel annually, port officials said, and the new cranes will further reduce the GPA’s fuel demand.

“Georgia Power’s partnership with the Georgia Ports Authority provides a great opportunity to further research and develop non-road electric transportation while adding value to the port’s day-to-day business,” said Murry Weaver, Georgia Power’s vice president of sales.

The new system will not only offer significant cost savings and environmental benefits, Weaver said, but will also position the GPA as a leading model for ports throughout the nation.

The electric cranes are more reliable than diesel-powered versions with less downtime, said Chris Noback, GPA’s director of engineering. In addition, fewer hours of diesel-powered operation will mean reduced maintenance costs and extended diesel life.

Foltz said long-term plans call for retrofitting the Garden City Terminal’s fleet of diesel-powered rubber-tired cranes to use shore power via retractable arms that will link to a conductor rail system and bring the total number of electric cranes to 169 by 2022.

Divers off the coast of Savannah recovered a semi-fossilized bone from an extinct Atlantic gray whale.

Analysis at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., identified the nearly five-foot long bone as that of an Atlantic gray whale.

The find was published recently in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica.

Atlantic gray whales, which grew to 50 feet long and were known as “devil fish” for their feistiness, were sought after for their high oil yield. Whalers hunted them to extinction in the 1700s, researchers believe.

This particular animal was not killed by humans, however. Carbon dating puts the whale bone — which is technically a “subfossil” because it hadn’t completely fossilized — at 36,000 years old. Humans lived then, but they weren’t whaling yet, said Gray’s Reef Deputy Superintendant and Research Coordinator Greg McFall, who helped to excavate the find.

The area where it was found, about 20 miles off the coast of St. Catherines Island, was likely shallow water or beach when the whale died.

Casts made of the jawbone and painted to replicate the fossil will go to the Smithsonian, the UGA campus in Athens, the Georgia Aquarium and the UGA Marine Extension Aquarium on Skidaway Island.

Noakes hopes the story of the gray whale will bring attention to the plight of the north Atlantic right whale, which has only about 400 individuals remaining and is in danger of following the grays into extinction.

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