Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for January 31, 2013


Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for January 31, 2013

CherokeeLibby copyLibby, a female Corgi mix, 2 years old, weighs 19 pounds and has been vaccinated, Heartworm tested, has had an initial flea/tick preventative, and will be spayed or neutered & microchipped upon adoption.

CherokeeVoyager copyVoyager, a male Redbone Coonhound, is 2 1/2, weighs 90 pounds and has been vaccinated, Heartworm tested, has had an initial flea/tick preventative, and will be spayed or neutered & microchipped upon adoption.

CherokeeVivian copyVivian, a Basset Hound mix, is 3 1/2 years old, weighs 33 pounds and has been vaccinated, Heartworm tested, has had an initial flea/tick preventative, and will be spayed or neutered & microchipped upon adoption.

These dogs and others are available for adoption from the Cherokee County Animal Shelter. Please email SDCALDWELL@CHEROKEEGA.COM or call the shelter at #770-345-7270 opt. #2, for more information. The Cherokee County Animal Shelter is open Tuesday – Saturday, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The Cherokee County Animal Shelter is competing for prizes up of $100,000 in the 2013 American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Rachael Ray $100K Challenge.

Competing shelters will work to save more animals in June, July and August 2013 than during the same period in 2012.

The shelter with the greatest increase will receive $100,000.

CCAS Director Sue Garcia said the shelter was chosen out of hundreds of applicants based on an application and phone interview.

CCAS also participated in the contest in 2011.

Shelter staff and volunteers hope to adopt out at least 300 more animals than during the same time frame in 2012, which would earn the shelter $5,000.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Here is the State House of Representatives Meeting Calendar.

Here is the Senate Meeting Calendar.


House Bill 142, the Speaker’s bill on ethics reform, will receive its maiden hearing before a subcommittee of the House Rules Committee today at 1:30 PM in Room 506 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building. Save me a seat up front and some popcorn, please.

Also to be heard is House Bill 143, which will ease compliance requirements for low-dollar campaigns.

Yesterday, we took a few minutes to chat with Senator Josh McKoon and get his reaction to the House Leadership’s ethics bill. You can listen to the audio here, but the money quote is this:

You couldn’t go before your city council or your county commision, your board of education without having to pay a $300 fee. Really what it is, is a First Amendment Tax. You’re having to pay a $300 fee to exercise your right to petition your government.

We also caught up with Rick Thompson, a former Director of the State Ethics Commission, who founded and serves as Managing Partner for RTA Political Management Group. Here’s a link to the audio. Again, the money quote:

The State of Georgia for many years has had an issue with individuals lobbying, yet refusing to register and report. House Bill 142 is a direct attempt to prevent unregistered lobbyist from lobbying and limiting gifts to elected officials. With this bill, the State of Georgia will be at the forefront of lobbyist transparency.

Our friends at Blog for Democracy are not amused either:

Democrats, we will be watching to see who supports this, you won’t get a pass. This is NOT a case of harming the good to ensure the perfect. This is bad bongo’s all around.  HB142 and HB 143 are the bill numbers.

For a little comic relief, we bring you the musings of Jason Shepherd, via Facebook:

I’ve read HB 142, the new Ethics Reform Bill. I hope it at least leaves $100 on the the 1st Amendment’s night stand when it’s through with it.

Thank you, folks, he’s here all week.

According to Rick Thompson, House Bill 143

“Will free up much needed resources for the Campaign Finance Commission. The bill allows the local election authority to consolidate the elections and the disclosure filings under the same umbrella and regain local control and transparency.”

“The bill exempts city and county candidates who will not raise or spend more than $2,500 from the burden of filing complicated disclosure reports.”

Thompson believes this is a good step for the State of Georgia in decreasing unnecessary paper work and  freeing resources of a Commission that associates its challenges to being under resourced.

“With these provisions enacted, the Commission should be able to immediately become more effective and efficient in carrying out its duties,” says Thompson.

Senate 2014 – Waiting for the Puffs of Smoke

Speculation over who is in and out of the 2014 Senate race has devolved to a Pope Watch, where everyone’s waiting to hear not from the college of cardinals, but for a signal from Governor Nathan Deal.

Yesterday, Congressman Lynn Westmoreland was at the Capitol, where Georgia Public Broadcasting caught up with him.

Former Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, who ran against Deal in 2012 and is heading up Congressman Jack Kingston’s exploration of a bid, may or may not have had a prayer meeting on the first floor, but I saw him with my own eyes. Kingston himself tweeted:

Blown away by outpouring of support. Appreciate ur prayers as we discuss how we can best serve #Georgia #gapol#gagop

For politicos in Coastal Georgia, perhaps Kingston will have something to say on Saturday at his annual Thank-you Barbecue in Sunbury. If you’re planning on attending, you may RSVP by emailing

And of course, Congressman Phil Gingrey was spotted on his way to meet with Gov. Deal on Tuesday. When I wrote on Facebook that I was hearing that Gingrey had decided to run, some of the more interesting responses were from Gannon Gingrey Manning, a daughter of the Congressman.

My father, Phil Gingrey, the most honest man I know, is CONSIDERING running for The US Senate in 2014. In regard to gun control: Phil Gingrey has an A+ rating from the NRA and has carried more legislation on behalf of the NRA than ANY member in Georgia.

Not likely to make a pilgrimage to visit the Governor might be Karen Handel, who ran against Deal in 2012, and never appeared publicly to embrace him as the candidate or as our state’s Governor.

Jim Galloway mentions Kelly Loeffler as a potential “Atlanta Dream” candidate for the Senate.

But it is the younger Kelly Loeffler that rings bells. She serves as the spokeswoman for IntercontinentalExchange, which just purchased the New York Stock Exchange. She’s got an MBA from DePaul University.

More to the point, last fall Loeffler gave $750,000 to Restore Our Future, the Super PAC that went to bat for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. She also gave $10,000 to the Georgia GOP last fall.

That’s a woman who’s laying down some chits.

Another name that fits the above profile is that of state revenue commissioner Doug MacGinnitie. Look for him to jump into the 6th District congressional contest if U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Roswell sallies forth into the GOP race for Senate.

Loeffler served as a Republican Presidential Elector this year, the low-profile, very-high status folks who cast the actual Electoral College votes for the State of Georgia.

Congress 2012

If Jack Kingston runs for Senate, expect a matchup for his seat between his longtime confidant Eric Johnson and Senator Buddy Carter (R-Pooler).

Special Elections

The infamous traffic stop involving state house candidate Brian Laurens continues to dominate news out of that Cherokee County election.

After Laurens asks what he’s done wrong, the officer tells him he ran the stop sign. Laurens proceeds to argue with the officer, telling him that drivers don’t have to stop at the roundabout — they slow down then enter.

“It’s a roundabout. You don’t have to stop,” Laurens said to the officer.

The officer asked Laurens if he felt he didn’t have to obey the stop signs.

After Laurens attempts to tell the officer how a roundabout works, Ofc. West points to the stop sign.

“You see the big octagon that says ‘stop’ on it? You have to stop,” Ofc. West replied.

Laurens counters that the stop sign defeats the purpose, and West said he is enforcing the signs that are there, after many residents have complained of people running the stop signs.

“You’re more than welcome to take it up with City Council,” West said, as Laurens interjects “I’ll call Tim right now.”

The officer walked back to his car to run the license, and Laurens called Downing. Several minutes lapse before the officer comes back to Laurens’ car and on the audio, Laurens is heard saying “Thanks, Tim. Bye.”

In a second video obtained by the Ledger-News under the state’s open records law, Laurens returns to the scene a little while later and argues with West and Sgt. Brian Cain.

“There is a stop sign located where this officer pulled you over, am I correct in understanding that?” Cain asked.

“Yeah, and I’ll pull them all up tonight,” Laurens replied.

After a couple of minutes of arguing over who owns the signs and the streets, Cain told Laurens he had a court date to tell his side of the story.

“You have a court date for this very reason, to explain your side to the judge, not to raise your voice and treat my officer the way you have treated him,” Cain said.

“I’ll call the judge, I’ve talked to the mayor already, and I’ll call the chief tomorrow. I appreciate it, and you’re Cain and you’re West?” Laurens said.

“Sgt. Cain and Ofc. West. Ask him to refer to the video if you don’t mind,” Cain replied.

Georgia Republican Party

There is a movement afoot to draft DeKalb County GOP Chairman Frank Auman to run for Chairman.

Greg Williams of DeKalb County is running for Second Vice Chair. His blog is online at Greg’s List.

“I was honored to be able to announce the candidacy in front of such an energetic group at the C.H.A.R.G.E. rally on Tuesday. I will have a specific platform that addresses some of the pressing issues facing Georgian Republicans today, including immigration, economic policy and crafting a message that will resonate with voters,” said Williams.

The Georgia Convention cycle begins February 9 with the precinct meetings and culminates with the State Convention in May where delegates will select the Chair, Vice Chair, 2nd Vice Chair and other positions in the State of Georgia Republican Party.

General Assembly

House Bill 89 by State Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) would exempt from federal gun restrictions any guns manufactured in Georgia.

Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, said the state could choose to institute its own regulation of firearms for those that would not be covered under federal law, should his bill pass.

“Basically, the bill is saying the interstate-commerce clause (of the U.S. Constitution) doesn’t apply to these weapons,” he said.

The Constitution grants sole power to the federal government to oversee the sales of goods and services across state lines, known as interstate commerce. It was originally designed to prevent states from imposing tariffs on each other’s’ goods, but in the last 50 years, it has been used to control activities from racial segregation to healthcare.

Benton argues that as long as these weapons aren’t sold out of state, the federal rules should not apply to them.

1960s civil rights cases that expanded the definition of “interstate commerce” might trump such a state law.

State Rep. Ed Lindsay (R-Atlanta) has dropped his Parent Trigger Bill, HB 123, which would allow parents in low-performing schools to move to convert them to charter schools.

House Bill 123 by Lindsey also would enable both groups — parents and teachers — to petition to force leadership changes at schools that aren’t making the grade.

Known as the Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act, the bill would, however, give final say-so to local boards of education, something some argue could drastically limit its effectiveness.

“This bill is about cutting through the bureaucracy and making local school systems perform better,” Lindsey said.

Provisions would allow parents and teachers to petition to transform low-achieving public schools into charter schools, including elementary and middle schools where less than 65 percent of students pass standardized tests in reading and math. Parents and school staff also could petition to change key school officials, including principals, as part of a school turnaround strategy.

If the bill passes, Georgia would become the eighth state in the country to pass a parent trigger law. Twenty states have considered similar measures, with most facing strong opposition from teachers groups.

The Hospital Bed Tax passed out of the House Committee to which it was assigned.


And the hits keep coming in Snellville in the lead-up to a cage death match between Mayor Kelly Kautz (D-Crazy) and everyone with a lick of sense in the community.

In a series of events that began with a 4:30 p.m. press conference called by Mayor Kelly Kautz, and ended about four hours later at the close of the meeting, the day could be summarized in one of Kautz’ statements during the meeting.

“Can we all agree to disagree?”

In a sign of how crazy relations between Kautz and Planet Earth City Council, they could not agree on even that.

Last month, Kautz dismissed Powell as city attorney in part because of what she said were monthly legal fees that were over budget last fall. Kautz also said Powell has pushed for lawsuits instead of giving opinions on city matters. This is the fourth time since Kautz was elected in 2010 that she and a majority of the council have disagreed on a city attorney choice, and the second time Powell has lost his job.

But if Powell lost his job at all was a bone of contention throughout the day.

Also on Wednesday, Kautz asked a Superior Court Judge for an injunction against the Council to take votes at the meeting. But Kautz withdrew her request for a declaratory judgment against the majority of council about the meeting because she said Judge Timothy Hamil wasn’t inclined to stop a public meeting with elected officials.

Kautz said Hamil instructed the parties to schedule a hearing date for the issue to be settled, which should be within the next 20 days.

Before the meeting began, Powell and Kautz had a disagreement about Powell sitting alongisde the Council members. After a discussion among the Council, Powell eventually sat in the first row of the audience.

Seated next to him were Karen Woodward and Nola Jackson of the law firm Cruser and Mitchell, who Kautz has appointed as interim city attorneys.

At the outset of the meeting, Kautz, Witts and Powell couldn’t agree if proper notice of the meeting was established, especially about whether Sabbagh was properly notified. Witts said he left Sabbagh seven voicemails.

As Kautz called the meeting to order “under protest,” she motioned to Woodward, who said, “I’m not sure what you want to call my status,” before it was eventually clarified as interim city attorney.

The debate reached such a level that Kautz granted two recesses, including one where Kautz said, “we will reconvene at a later date.” The meeting then resumed in about five minutes.

Witts and Howard were labeled “out of order” more than once during the meeting, and Howard replied after one exchange, “I have been there all night, I’ve got no problem with that,” he said, which drew applause from the crowd.

After Kautz said, “I’ll see your crazy and raise you one lawsuit,” to herself, the lawyers Kautz appointed as City Attorney said, “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” and fled.

The mayor’s recent attempted hiring of new city attorneys has put our city in legal limbo. This is one of the issues we are asking to be resolved in Superior Court. On Thursday January 18th, that firm resigned, effective immediately, stating, “we feel it is not in the best interest of Cruser & Mitchell to continue in this position.”

That now makes 5 city attorneys who have represented the city in just over a year.

When your clients need to lawyer-up to discuss hiring a lawyer, that’s probably the best course of action.
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