Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for February 5, 2013

5
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for February 5, 2013

LyonsJudyBlueEyesCompositeJudy Blue Eyes is a white shepherd blend with blue eyes and a bobtail.  She is unique “coming and going”!  Judy Blue Eyes is very sweet, she definitely wants all the attention, but she minded very well and we think she will make a great pet for any family. She is available for adoption from the City of Lyons Animal Shelter, Lyons, GA.

LyonsGlennCompGlen is a beautiful shepherd mix who is looking for his forever home.  He is good with other dogs and very playful.  Glen needs a family to love. He is available for adoption from the City of Lyons Animal Shelter, Lyons, GA.

CindyLouCompThis pretty girl is new to the Lyons shelter this week, and such a sweet young girl she is!  Cindy Lou Who is definitely a shepherd mix, maybe 1 – 2 years old, and she is as gentle and affectionate as any dog can be.  This girl will make a great pet for the shepherd lovers in this world!

EstherComp2This is Esther, she has been at the shelter for a few weeks. Aptly named because as you can see, she loves to play in the water and run. Esther is a sweet girl-good with other dogs and like so many dogs in the Lyons shelter, desperately needs a home.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Today at the General Assembly

Senate Schedule

1:30 PM – 2:30 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS -FISCAL MANAGEMENT SUBCOMMITTEE 307 CLOB
1:30 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS-TRANSPORTATION SUBCOMMITTEE 310 CLOB
2:00 PM SPECIAL JUDICIARY 450 CAP
3:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS -INSURANCE SUBCOMMITTEE 307 CLOB
3:00 PM SENATE APPROPRIATIONS – CRIMINAL JUSTICE SUBCOMMITTEE 310 CLOB
3:30 PM ETHICS 125 CAP

House Schedule

TBD Floor Session (LD11) HOUSE CHAMBER (10:00am)
TBD Appropriation Higher Education Subcommittee 132 CAP (8:45am-9:00am)
TBD Appropriation Education Subcommittee 341 CAP (1:00pm-1:15pm)
TBD Appropriation Health Subcommittee 341 CAP (1:15-1:30pm)
TBD Appropriation Economic Development Subcommittee 341 CAP (1:30pm-1:45pm)
TBD Appropriation General Government Subcommittee 341 CAP (1:45pm-2:00pm)
TBD Appropriation Human Resources Subcommittee 341 CAP (2:00-2:15pm)
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM AGRICULTURE 403 CAP
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM INSURANCE 606 CLOB
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM BANKS & BANKING 406 CLOB
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM STATE PLANNING & COMMUNITY AFFAIRS 515 CLOB
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Admin/Licensing Subcommittee of Insurance 606 CLOB
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM PUBLIC SAFETY & HOMELAND SECURITY 415 CLOB
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM JUDICIARY CIVIL 132 CAP
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM WAYS & MEANS 606 CLOB
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Academic Support Subcommittee of Education 415 CLOB
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM HIGHER EDUCATION 406 CLOB

Special Elections Today

Voters in HD 71 in Coweta and Fayette Counties head to the polls from 7 AM to 7 PM today.

Although Coweta resident Robert Stokely won election last year, he withdrew from the position in December after being offered a full-time job in Coweta Magistrate Court. That has left the district, which encompasses much of east Coweta County and two small areas in northwest Peachtree City, without a representative as the general assembly cranked up several weeks ago.

With six contestants in the field, that is unlikely to change as a runoff election is likely. Should no candidate get 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will face off in the runoff election which is scheduled for March 5, near the end of the legislative session.

The six candidates who have qualified for office include Cynthia Bennett (D, Newnan), Thomas G. Crymes (R, Sharpsburg), Michael Farbo (R, White Oak), Darryl Marmon (R, Sharpsburg), David Stover (R, Palmetto) and Richard Weisser (R, Sharpsburg).

The election for State House District 21 between Republican Scot Turner, who led the field in the Special Election last month, and bumbling so-called Republican Political Consultant Brian Laurens will mercifully be over today.

Getting voters to come to the polls once again is at the front of Turner’s mind.

“We had 4,000 votes over the summer and almost 1,500 in the special election. We may not even have 1,500 voters show up this time,” said Turner, who also ran for the seat in the general election.

Turner said his campaign team has identified his supporters and is now focused on getting them motivated.

Laurens, in the final days of the campaign, plans to continue knocking on doors and talking to neighbors. He’s been visiting up to 150 houses per day in recent days, he said. This is Laurens’ first race as a candidate.

“It’s scary that possibly less than 1,000 people are going to decide this race, but they’ll be the most educated people,” he said.

A key reason Turner was skeptical of the bogus mailer that appeared to endorse Laurens from Georgia Conservatives in Action? Turner signed the $100 gift cap pledge that GCIA co-sponsored, while Laurens didn’t. I’ll have to remember to look up the federal statues on mail fraud when I have a minute.

For the final word on this election before the results are in the book, you might check out “Eight reasons not to vote for Brian Laurens” by the Perspicacious Conservative or Brian Laurens: The Lies Just Pile Up by PoliticalVine.com.

Finally, voters in the lower-left hand corner of the State will choose between Dean Burke and Mike Keown to succeed former Senator John Bulloch.

Legislation

WilkinsonCarterDealFCCLAA floor vote on the Supplemental Budget, which includes year-end corrections to the prior year’s budget and is an early landmark in the appropriations process, could come as early as Friday.

“I think we are close to dealing with the supplemental budget,” said House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire. “I suspect that we will have our (appropriations) subcommittees reporting in Monday or Tuesday.”

That would mean the full House Appropriations Committee would vote on the supplemental budget Wednesday with a floor vote by Friday.

Senate appropriations subcommittees already will be hearing from agency heads even before the House votes.

Two other headline bills are also moving quickly toward a vote by the full House, those dealing with a gift ban and lobbyist registration sponsored by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.

“I suspect it will be some more public hearings and a good bit of refinement and on the floor by the end of the week,” O’Neal said.

In the middle of the week, the House and Senate meet in joint session to hear the State of the Judiciary Address from Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein.

Among the most important elections you don’t hear much about are those to the State DOT Board.

Eight of the 14 seats on the board will be voted on in elections held Wednesday and Thursday and over two days next week. Lawmakers who represent any part of the congressional districts will meet for one district at a time and to vote by secret ballot.

Three seats are vacant. The 14th was newly created because population growth earned Georgia an added congressional district. The 6th district seat is vacant because board member Brandon Beach resigned after winning a special election to the state Senate last month. As a senator, he’ll get to vote on his successor.

The District 1 seat is also vacant because the new boundaries don’t include the homes of any current board members. Jay Shaw of Lakeland had represented the 1st, but he was drawn into the 8th with fellow board member Jim Cole of Macon. But since Cole resigned Friday, Shaw remains in office.

Running in District 1’s Wednesday voting are ex-Rep. Ann Purcell of Rincon and retired Waycross engineer Burton Carter.

Former Rep. Ann Purcell, R-Rincon, did a little campaigning last week when addressing members of the Savannah Chamber of Commerce, even though the voting will all be done by legislators.

“I want to be your voice on the DOT board,” she said.

Among the new lobbyists at the Capitol yesterday were 30 medical school students from MCG GHSU GRU.

“One of the first things we’re going to do is thank our legislators for their sup­port,” student Brett Heimlich said.

The dean of the Medical Col­lege of Georgia, Dr. Peter F. Buck­ley, said there is nothing inappropriate about a public university’s taking students to, in essence, lobby for taxpayer funding.

“There’s nothing weird and wonderful about this. This is part of their training,” Buckley said.

Most public medical schools in other states taken students to meet with lawmakers, he said, but this is the first time GRU has done it. GRU’s Athens satellite campus bused in students last year and again last week.
GRU will cover the cost of transportation and pay for a lunch the students will have with legislators.

“There is not a huge expense,” Buckley said. “And this is part of their curriculum.”

Lobbyists are invited to sponsor a working lunch for Senate Chairmen at a cost of roughly $200.

Fresh from a historic vote three weeks ago that set a $100 cap on lobbyists’ gifts to all state senators, lobbyists were asked Monday whether they would help pay for group lunches of the majority’s chairmen every Tuesday and Wednesday during the legislative session.

The solicitation came in an email from a legislative aide to Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who defended the practice. It was a working lunch, she said, costing about $8 for each of about 25 GOP chairmen. About half that group meets one day; the other half meets the day after.

Up next? A chairmen’s meeting Tuesday featuring a sandwich, cup of noodles and a cookie.

“It’s not elaborate, it’s not like it’s a fancy buffet,” Unterman said. “The purpose of the meeting is to extract what is happening in each committee so we know what is happening in the Senate.”

The new Senate rule, which applies only to that chamber, does not allow a senator to accept an individual gift worth more than $100, including a private lunch. Such gifts, however, may be made to an entire committee or subcommittee — a loophole that applies in this case because the group is technically known as the chairmen’s committee.

The equivalent of a boxed lunch at Jason’s doesn’t sound like such a corrupt offering to me, especially given the $1100 taxpayer-funded lunches that included lobster as an indulgence for some local appointed officials.

The Anti-TSPLOST Penalty Act seeks to remove from the books the requirment of a higher percentage of local tax money in certain road grants to local governments in regions that did not pass the T-SPLOST last summer.

State Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said governments would still have to sink a lot of money in bringing roads up to a certain standard before they are able to get state funding.

“The 30 percent was probably already being spent by local governments before the code section changed,” said Gooch, who served previously as a Georgia Department of Transportation board member and as a Lumpkin County commissioner.

“So, if the bill were to pass, it’s not really going to change anything,” he added. “Local governments are still required by law to fix those problems and those roads before state funds can be used on them.”

Still, the provision of TIA has been criticized on principle — that voters shouldn’t be punished for exercising their right to dismiss the sales tax.

“Taxing any one part of Georgia simply because they did not pass a tax increase is un-American,” said Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, in a news release last week. “This is unfortunately the case for 113 counties across the state that voted against the TSPLOST tax.”

Expect a justified outcry from locals in the three regions that did pass the TPLOST.

The repeal of the state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing by the legislature last year, which was supported by Gov. Nathan Deal and all five members of the Public Service Commission is a boon to the economy of southwest Georgia.

“Who is the second-leading user of energy in the state right now? Procter & Gamble,” [State Rep. Ed] Rynders said. “And what has Procter & Gamble been trying to do for years? Get rid of the energy tax in the state. And since Georgia is the only state in the Southeast with an energy tax, I would think people in Southwest Georgia would be particularly happy to see legislation — like HB 386 — which phases out the energy tax.”

“And did you know that Thrush — right there in Albany — is one of only two manufacturers of cropdusters in the United States, and its competitor in Texas gets a tax break on every plane it sells? Were you aware that HB 386 helps make Thrush more competitive?”

Rynders said the economic development advantages of HB 386 do not end there.

Former State Representative Robin Williams continues his employment incarceration by the federal government after being sentenced in 2005 to ten years in prison for fraud after losing an appeal. The Augusta Chronicle reviews how he scammed a local hospital and Georgia taxpayers.

General Oglethorpe State CapitolSenate 2014

Congressman Paul Broun — IN, announcement expected Wednesday.

Congressman Jack Kingston — UNDECLARED, but seen in the Georgia State Capitol emerging from Speaker David Ralston’s office by the front door, not the way you exit if you’re trying to keep a low profile, he was said to be visiting with Gov. Nathan Deal as well.

Congressman Lynn Westmoreland — OUT

From the Press Release, via Jim Galloway’s Political Insider:

I would like to thank those who offered their encouragement and support over the last week as I considered a run for the United States Senate.

After discussing it with family and friends, and after much deliberation and prayer, I have made the decision to not pursue a statewide office at this time.

I am honored to be serving as the U.S. Congressman for Georgia’s Third District.  I look forward to continuing my work in that role, as well as in my new roles with the Financial Services Committee and at the National Republican Congressional Committee, and working to advance the principles of limited government and personal responsibility.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed — OUT

From MSNBC.com:

“I’m just loving being Mayor. I’m focused on being mayor. There are some terrific candidates out there. I think Congressman John Barrow would be terrific. I also think Peter Aman, my former COO would be terrific as well. I’m going to keep being mayor.

Vernon Jones — Running his mouth, yesterday, after several days of hinting that he might consider a 2014 run, Vernon Jones, former DeKalb County CEO, who ran in the 2008 Democratic Primary for United States Senate against Saxby Chambliss and lost the Primary Runoff to Jim Martinposted a photo on Facebook from that campaign with a Vernon Jones for US Senate logo, with the comment “It’s in the air! Georgia is ready.”

Also spotted at the State Capitol yesterday were US Senator Johnny Isakson and Newton County Commissioner John Douglas, who has announced for the Tenth Congressional District in 2014.

Order in the Courts

The Augusta Chronicle profiles the newest judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals, Carla Wong McMillian.

The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) has amended its complaint against Grady County State Court Judge J. William Bass Sr.

The new charges also accuse the judge of trying defendants who failed to appear in court in absentia rather than issue bench warrants for their arrests.

Bass, a Cairo attorney who has served as president of the Council of State Court Judges, is slated to face a JQC tribunal next month.

In December, the JQC charged Bass with multiple violations of the state judicial ethics canons. They included improperly allowing his social relationships, including his Facebook friends, to influence his judicial conduct. The JQC also said Bass illegally fined criminal defendants hundreds of thousands of dollars to boost county revenues and increase his own salary; verbally attacked people in his courtroom; and retaliated against county contractors whom he had accused of supporting his
political opponent in the 2010 election.

The December charges also claimed Bass improperly appointed his son, with whom he shares a law practice in Cairo, to preside over state court judicial proceedings whenever the judge was not available.

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